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What to do if you find baby sea turtles on the beach

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Baby carey turtle on a sandy beach in Chuburna, Yucatán. Photo: Georg Basler

Several of our readers and friends have been letting us know that they have been sighting baby sea turtles along Yucatán’s coastline. 

Baby carey turtles crawl over shells on their way to the ocean in Chuburna, Yucatán. Photo: Georg Basler

Most people realize that it is not a good idea to disturb nesting or baby turtles, but what should we do if one appears to be in peril or distress?

To answer our questions we spoke to Valladolid-based veterinarian and sea turtle rescue volunteer, Cecilia Collí Díaz.

Yucatán Magazine: So, what exactly should we do if we find a sea turtle on the beach that does not seem to be doing well?

Cecilia Collí Díaz: Sea turtles are very exotic and their babies are extremely cute, so the desire to want to pick them up is understandable, but it’s important that we refrain from doing so.

YM: Why exactly is that?

CCD: Well for one thing it is illegal to handle sea turtles without supervision from a licensed specialist. Second, too much contact with humans, especially being fed, can result in aberrations of their instincts and behaviors. 

YM: But what if a sea turtle, baby or otherwise appears to be in danger or immediate distress?

CCD: Sometimes baby sea turtles will get stuck on their backs or find their way blocked by obstacles leaving them an easy target for predators such as cats, dogs, or birds. The best thing to do is call the authorities and ask for guidance on what to do.

YM: Is it OK to remove obstacles from their path or flip them to help them get on their way?

CCD: Generally speaking, yes, but it’s important to first contact the environmental authorities to ask for guidance to avoid any misunderstanding. 

YM: Is there anything else we should be aware of?

CCD: It is important to be conscientious that beaches are ecosystems, not just our playgrounds. It is our duty to ensure that all life on the coastline is protected. Avoid leaving objects like lawn chairs on the beach that could act as a barrier or cause harm to animals, especially overnight.

YM: Is there anything else people can do to help?

CCD: Environmental programs on Yucatán’s coast, including those helping turtles, are extremely underfunded. There are several programs that require qualified volunteers, but making donations is a great way to help. 

If you spot an injured sea turtle or an unmarked nest, contact Yucatán’s turtle protection and conservation office at the state ministry for sustainability. Phone: (+52) 999-502-7825.

On Yucatán Magazine’s YouTube channel, see baby carey sea turtles make their way to the ocean for the first time just after hatching.
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