Have you ever participated to a Turtle Freeing ? I did, in El Salvador, and it was a touching experience.
First of all, when coming to El Salvador, do not expect modern, urban, stressful, hyperactive, kind of vacation. Do not expect the “most violent country on the world” kind of thing either. I’d rather consider El Salvador as a beautiful wild (and still pretty much undiscovered) country, offering several into-the-nature experiences. Besides climbing volcanoes, surfing Pacific waves or chasing waterfalls, you can also participate to a freeing turtles experience.
All about the Turtles
I got to release this 3 days old baby turtle !
I did not know much about sea turtles. Besides that time I went swimming with gigantic turtles in Akumal (Mexico) I could only imagine that they were at extinction risk. Now I know that there are 7 kinds of sea turtles, 4 of them are present in El Salvador.
Among them, an impressive kind (Tortuga Baule) that will grow to be around 2m long. These species come nest their eggs all over El Salvador’s Pacific Coasts. 45 days later, baby turtles will born and on their first day alive, they will have to reach the sea and swim away.
Why do we have to “Free” the Turtles ? Can’t they go on their own ?
The baby turtle and moi, moments before releasing him/her by the Pacific Ocean.
As we were explained by great FUNZAL volunteers on the beach, people (and tourists too!) play an important role in Turtle conservacy. Baby turtles have to walk (very slow… they’re turtles!) from their nest to the sea, and eve if it’s 10m away, they risk being crashed by people on the beach, eaten by dogs, hunted by birds… So, they need your help to be safe and reach the water !
How does it work ?
These baby turtles will live more than you and me, will swim for over 100 years and will be back, every 15 years, to this same exact beach, to the same exact spot we released them
No worries, turtles are nice little animals ! You will get to the beach were the turtles nests are. You will stand in line, at the water’s edge, holding a baby turtle in your hands. You will see how strong they are compard to their small size. You will realize something amazingly touching : this turtle will live for over 100 years, and will come back, every 15 years to this exact same spot. Some people will name their turtle, others will wish them a safe trip.
An then you release your baby turtle on the sand. And you get to see how this little animal struggles to reach the water, slowly, painfully. And we all admire the beautiful sight of these babies growing up and leaving us, slowly, reaching the sea.
It is, definitely, a touching experience.
It is like planting a tree for the first time in your life. When you release the baby turtle you think about yourself, about the years to come, and about the contribution you just made. “Thanks to me – I thought to myself – this turtle will now survive, grow overseas, will live longer than me, longer even than my children, and every 15 years, this turtle will come back, right here, to the same spot I set it free”.
A DEVELOPMENT ECO-TOURISTIC EXPERIENCE
FUNZAL, as other NGO’s in El Salvador working to preserve Sea Turtles, are engaged into an integral development project. While Turtles will come nest their eggs on the beach, “egg collectors” from the villages will collect the eggs and give them to the NGOs in charge of their protection. In exchange, egg collectors will receive money and help to sustain their families. This prevents turtle-egg contraband and turtle uses for cheesy ‘touristic’ objects.
Then, the NGO will take care of the eggs (assuring proper temperatures, safe nests and freeing babies) and of the baby turtles. Tourists can make their part by supporting these initiatives, participating in turtle freeings and by NOT buying illegal turtle-related products.
Hope to have encouraged you to commit and always, to travel responsibly.
If you are coming to El Salvador do not hesitate to participate in this great experience : find out more about volunteers opportunities, contributing and booking a turtle release day (7$/adults – 5$ children) with FUNZEL :
The Zoological Foundation of El Salvador – FUNZEL
Tel. (503) 2211-8044
Have you ever released turtles? Did you know all of this about turtles? Do you like turtles? How are you? Please, share all your comments below !