El Salvador works to save endangered sea turtles that hatch along its coast

By Sara Acosta

San Salvador, Dec 23 (efe-epa).- On the coasts of El Salvador at least four species of sea turtles, two of them in critical danger of extinction, lay their eggs and are protected by the residents of the areas together with environmental NGOs.

In central ??La Libertad, specifically on San Diego beach, the Zoological Foundation of El Salvador (Funzel) together with the San Diego Bocana Sea Turtle Conservation Association are in charge of the conservation of the species that come to the spot to spawn.

According to Funzel, olive ridley sea turtles visit the Salvadoran coasts the most, and 70 percent of the hawksbills in the eastern Pacific Ocean nest up and down the Central American country. Black and leatherback species also nest here.

Hawksbill and leatherback turtles “are in critical danger of extinction and this causes a marine coastal imbalance of great importance,” biologist Mauricio Velázquez told EFE.

Hundreds of turtles are released weekly on various beaches in El Salvador, but due to the complications generated by the Covid-19 pandemic, in 2020 on San Diego beach, only two releases were made, Velázquez said.

People interested in contributing to conservation efforts and who are given a talk on the importance of sea turtles for the ecosystem are invited to the releases.

Funzel is also in charge of training the so-called “tortugueros,” local residents who are in charge of monitoring the arrival of the turtles, for the protection of the species, Velázquez said.

The incubation period for olive ridleys is 45 days and they are released only a few hours after hatching.

“These turtles can return to the beach in 12 to 15 years,” Velázquez said.

From the two releases this year, the last one at the weekend, at least 80,000 turtles are now in the water and trying to survive against the threats they face in the ocean.

The biologist said that “the main threat, as in all species of wildlife, is man.”

For years in El Salvador many people were engaged in the trade of sea turtle products, including their eggs, which were in high demand in bars and restaurants.

However, in 2009 a total and permanent ban was decreed in the country that prohibits the consumption and trade of products derived from turtles, Velázquez said.

Added to the threat of commercialization is pollution due to the poor waste disposal and the effects of climate change.

However, Salvador Vargas, a San Diego resident who is dedicated to taking care of the turtle hatcheries in the area, told EFE that unfortunately “the egg trade always exists,” despite the ban.

Vargas said that each turtle lays between 40 to 140 eggs, with a 95 percent probability that they will hatch and indicated that the ideal temperature for incubation ranges between 29 and 30 degrees Celsius.

“(The temperature) does not have to be very high or very low. If it is very low the nests are delayed and if it is very hot there are chances that more females will be born than males,” he added. EFE-EPA


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