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Cozumel Marine Turtle Salvation Program
Cozumel is fortunate to play host to thousands of sea turtles coming ashore to nest each year. During the nights of mid-May through mid-November, on the Eastern shore of the island, two species of sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs on the beaches of Cozumel. The turtles, known as the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) and the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), generally lay from 100 -150 eggs and can nest up to 6 times in one season. Roughly 60 days later, the young hatchlings emerge at the surface of the nest, typically at night when the temperatures are cooler, and immediately head for the ocean following the light reflected off of the water's surface. In addition, the bays and reefs of the Cozumel area are also foraging areas where sea turtles such as hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricate) turtles and giant leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) turtles have been sighted swimming just offshore.
CLICK to Sign up for Cozumel's Turtle Program and Baby Releases!
Did you know?
  • Sea Turtles are cold blooded reptiles that lay eggs and use lungs to breath air.
  • The first turtles appeared 245 million years ago.
  • Sea turtles live in warm tropical oceans.
  • Only 8 species of sea turtles exist in the world and 4 of them nest in the State of Quintana Roo.
  • The principal predators of sea turtles are seabirds, crabs, raccoons and human beings.
  • Sea Turtles are protected under National and International law.

Green turtle laying her eggs.
Green turtle leaving her nest.

Green Turtles a.k.a. "Blancas"
(Chelonia mydas)
  • Dark olive green in color.
  • Adults weigh 100-250 kg. and grow 1.15 m in length.
  • Nesting season is between June and September.
  • Each female nests 3-7 times a year.
  • Each nest contains 120-150 eggs, which are round and white. 
  • The eggs hatch in about 60 days.
  • Feed primarily on sea grass.
Loggerhead Turtles a.k.a. "Caguama"
(Caretta caretta)
  • Reddish-brown in color.
  • Adults weigh 100-200 kg. and can grow upto 1.00 m in length.
  • Nesting is between April and July.
  • Females nest 3-7 times every season with approximately 120 round white eggs in each nest.
  • The eggs hatch in about 60 days.
  • Feed primarily on shellfish such as crabs and snails
Mother turtle's tracks back to the ocean.
Cozumel Turtle Salvation Program
Hatchlings that are ready for release.The indigenous Mayan population of Cozumel has enjoyed consuming turtle meat and turtle eggs as part of their diet for hundreds of years. Being large, clumsy animals that are easily captured while nesting, white sea turtle meat became a staple part of every Mayan family's food supply. The meat is cooked and plated or prepared in a soup while the eggs are a favorite among drinkers at local cantinas. Myth has it that consuming the raw turtle eggs will improve a man's virility.

Perhaps the turtle populations of past eras could support such consumption but this is not the case now. Only through education of younger generations combined with strong turtle salvation programs will anyone be able to save the sea turtles from extinction.

During the Cozumel nesting season, the City works in co-ordination with local police and Federal armed forces to limit activity on the east side at nights during turtle nesting season. In the evenings of nesting season, only the salvation program participants with specifically designated biologists, interns, and volunteers are allowed to walk the beaches in search of nesting female turtles, turtle nests, and recent hatchlings. Among their duties include the protecting and tagging of females, the collection scientific data, protecting nests from predators and marking them for monitoring, the relocation of eggs to more favorable locations on the beach when necessary and the release of hatchlings to the sea. From the data collected, the salvation program is then able to determine turtle hatching success, behavior, distribution and population.

At this time there are essentially TWO excellent turtle conservation efforts in progress:
  1. The Parks and Museum Foundation's Punta Sur Park Turtle Salvation Program - This program began in 2000 and covers the beach area from the entrance of Punta Sur Park all the way to the south lighthouse. Since access to the Punta Sur Park and its beaches is closed to the public at night, this program enjoys significant protection from human poachers. In addition, the Parks and Museum Foundation has served for decades on the City's Turtle Program Management Committee and sends its brigade one night a week to work all the beaches (not just inside Punta Sur). This Parks Foundation endeavor offers turtle observation and liberation events daily during the nesting season.
    CLICK to Reserve spaces to see Cozumel's turtles and release babies!

  2. The City of San Miguel's Volunteer Turtle Salvation Program - This program began back in the late 1980's and covers the beaches from Mezcalitos south to the Punta Sur Park entrance. What began as a grassroots effort by a few citizens interested in turtle conservation, eventually evolved into a small City funded program whereby the City relied upon volunteers to do the nightly work, but were able to fund the salaries of 2 biologists to supervise the sanctuary and the work of the volunteers. For many years, no other funds were available to further develop the program or to provide supplies, gas or vehicles for the volunteer groups working the beaches each night.
In 2003 - 2004 island tourism increased significantly with the opening of several new hotels and many more cruise ships stopping in Cozumel than ever before. With this increased activity all around the island, the local population became more aware of conservation related issues. In response to community calls, the City increased its conservation efforts overall and as a result the Turtle Salvation Program has received more attention and funding than in the past. Even so, the Turtle Salvation Program of Cozumel can be considered in its infancy and still lacks resources to do all of the research and investigation that is necessary each year.

How to Contribute to the Cozumel Turtle Program
1. Participate ~ Go out one evening with the Turtle Volunteers! Sign up Here!

During turtle nesting season, a different Volunteer Brigade is assigned to each night of the week. Due to changes in monitoring methodology over the years, the size of the Brigade is not as important as it once was in the past. So for the most part, all brigades are well staffed throughout the season.

Volunteers counting the hatchlings.Many visitors email us inquiring if they can contribute some of their vacation time and participate in the Turtle Salvation Program while they are here. In the past, the City discouraged the inclusion of tourists simply because they have no training or skill in dealing with these fragile animals and their nests. However, beginning with the 2006 season, in an attempt to generate more interest and increase awareness of Cozumel’s turtle population, the Turtle Salvation Program’s governing Committee of Brigades has made a provision to allow “one time guests” to participate in the Program provided these guests are supervised and work within the structure of a Brigade.

In the past, those wanting to participate and work with a Brigade for 1 or 2 nights during their vacation stay had to request permission in advance, be approved and be assigned to a Volunteer Brigade but now the Cozumel turtle nesting activities are becoming more and more tourized and accessable to both locals and travelers who want to experience the conservation process.
NOTE: Annual Turtle nesting activity runs May 15 through November 15 only.


2. Donate Supplies for Biologists and Brigadistas

Some of the Group Islamar Volunteers.Even though the Turtle Salvation Program is now getting more attention and a bit more funding from the City and some Federal agencies than in the past, resources are still scarce. The increased funding the past few years has gone toward purchasing a vehicle and funding 1 additional biologist (total of 3) for the season’s work.
As mentioned earlier, each Volunteer Brigade is assigned a night of the week to work during turtle season. The group leader for each night is responsible for coordinating the activities and providing supplies for the volunteers.

Essentially nothing is provided by the City really ~ the Volunteer Brigades follow pre-determined methodologies and utilize their own supplies and equipment. This usually works well for most of the nesting season but often, as tourism slows for low season and cash runs short among the volunteers, much needed supplies cannot be re-stocked so the overall effort suffers.

Even though the City is unable to provide supplies like flashlights, batteries or funding for gas or extra vehicles, if some one went to the City and said, "I'd like to make a donation to the turtle salvation program." The City Cashier would take the money and provide a receipt but the funds would all go into the General Fund. Perhaps the Turtle Program Director would be made aware he had some extra money to use and then again, maybe not. In general, it would be highly unlikely that a monetary donation of any kind would ever see it's way to the most critical level of the program: to the volunteers for supplies, gas or necessities.

However, those wanting to help CAN contribute in ways that will directly affect the cause. The best way to help is with the contribution of actual supplies being used by the Volunteer Brigades.

Turtle Salvation Program Supplies Wish List
  • Small Hand-held Flashlights
  • Forehead-Mount Flashlights for Hands-Free Working
  • Small Spotlights - Car Battery Powered (via cigarette lighter)
  • Batteries – AAA, AA, D
  • Multi-channel 2-way Radios with protective plastic covers
  • Surveyor’s Plastic Marking Tape – orange or pink neon color
  • Seamstress Measuring Tapes
  • Latex Gloves
  • First Aid Kits
  • Pens
  • Black Waterproof Markers (Thin Tip Sharpie)
  • Heavy Duty Small/Medium Trash Bags (NO BLACK)
  • Disposable Rain Ponchos
  • Water, Soft drinks, Ice Chests
  • Gasoline Vouchers from Local Stations
  • Propane Gas Lanterns
  • 50 meter measuring tapes (on rolls)
  • Spring scale capacidad 100 gr
  • Spring scale capacidad 60 gr
  • Any literature or reference books on marine turtles ~ Spanish or English

Cozumel Turtle Program Donation Drop Off Locations ~
  • Cozumelinsider / CVC office ~ 602-B [Upstairs] Raphael Melgar - Next to the Naval Base
  • Cozumel Museum ticket counter ~ Raphael Melgar - between Calles 4 & 6 Norte
  • Cozumel Department of Ecology ~ 65 Avenida at the Environment Interpretation Park near Calle 27 Sur
    NOTE: Donations accepted year round at all locations!
    Guidelines for Turtle Observation
    Turtles nests, safe in the sanctuary.As more and more tourists hear about Cozumel's nesting sea turtles, many climb into cars and head out for the other side of the island just to take a look for themselves. PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS!!
    There are military personnel and police guarding the passageways to the east side of the island in all directions during nesting and hatching season. One check-point is set up at the north end (Mezcalito’s) while another is set up at the south end (Rasta Bar). The task of the check-point officers is to stop anyone and everyone going into the areas where turtles are nesting and volunteers are working.

    You must have a valid ID badge issued for the Program in order to pass into the restricted areas and/or you must be accompanied by Brigade Volunteers.


    That being said, sometimes, tourists visiting the bars inside the nesting areas find themselves having to leave after dark at the request of Police or military personnel. If this happens to you ~ please do your part to help the turtles by following these guidelines during turtle nesting season:
    • Use only parking lights between Mescalito's and Paradise Café
    • Drive slowly because volunteers are walking on the roadways in low light conditions
    • Be quiet because loud noises scare turtles back into the sea without laying eggs
    • Never illuminate the beach or ocean in nesting areas
    • Observe turtles from the roadside only
    • Do not walk on beaches at night during the nesting season
    Please Note: Federal law prohibits touching, molesting or disturbing turtles or their nests. Violators will be prosecuted and are subject to fines, penalties, and jail sentences.
    The Future of Turtles in Cozumel
    In other parts of the Caribbean turtles have become "tourized." While the consensus is that "tourizing" is the future for saving the turtle population worldwide, Cozumel has not yet come to grips with what to do with their nesting turtles. Now that there is significant demand for tourist participation, many tour operators want to get in on the action so there is pressure to open up the nesting side of the island to tour providers. In addition, land development projects are always being proposed that threaten to populate the beaches of the east side not only with people but with light pollution which in essence drives nesting turtles away to other more secluded, dark beaches. Meanwhile, the remaining turtle nesting beaches must be protected from poaching and predators and exploitation until it's determined how Cozumel wants to handle their conservation responsibilities. We can only hope that they will come to their senses, realize the beauty of the natural asset they have from April to September each year and continue to increase the funding to vigorously protect and promote turtle nesting on all the other public beaches as well.


    A Look at Volunteer Efforts Over the Years
    Turtle Season of 2004

    The 2004 turtle salvation program season got underway earlier this year as all participating groups vowed to work together this season as a cohesive committee. Weekly meetings were held discussing monitoring methodology and record keeping. Volunteer groups were scheduled to work each night of the week, the sanctuary area for endangered nests was prepared and the military along with police were once again in charge of security to prevent visitors on the east side after dark.
    Mama returns to the ocean!
    The monitoring methodology used in the 2004 season was to mark the turtle nests with GPS without excavating the eggs unless it was determined that the nest was in danger of poaching or natural elements. If the nest was deemed to be in danger then it would be excavated and the eggs relocated elsewhere on that same beach or to the sanctuary if necessary. After the appropriate incubation period, volunteers were then to return to the nest site, excavate and determine how many of that nest's eggs had actually hatched. The one downside to this methodology is that while it can be determined how many eggs actually hatched, it cannot be proven these hatchlings actually made it to the ocean. Some could have been taken by natural predators and not made it to the sea at all.

    The season was going well with all volunteer groups reporting a high level of turtles coming in to lay nests each night. Unfortunately, much of the work done by the volunteers (and the turtles) was undone this season by Mother Nature as hurricane IVAN passed near the island. Even though IVAN was 250 miles away, the wave heights created along the east coast of Cozumel were significant enough to relocate huge boulders into the middle of the highway. The east coast took a severe beating from this storm and sand at virtually all of the turtle nesting beaches were either swept away (taking turtle nests with it) or piled up 3-4 ft higher than normal.

    Volunteer groups reported finding nests 3-4 foot deeper than originally recorded due to the pile up of sand on some beaches. The hatchlings in these nests did not have the strength to dig through this quantity of sand to survive. With that in mind, the focus of the remainder of the season shifted to locating the existing nests as they were about to hatch. Once located again with GPS, volunteers would dig out the hatchlings and release them so as to give them a chance to live.

    While the 2004 season was a disappointment in terms of monitoring and the devastation caused by IVAN, the volunteers ended the season on a positive note November 15th, 2004 with Presidente Carlos Hernandez Blanco recognizing everyone at the closing ceremonies for their diligence to make a difference despite the obstacles.

    Since the local city government administration is changing over in early 2005, it is yet to be determined if the same monitoring methodology will continue for the 2005 Season. All volunteers are anxiously awaiting the decisions of the new administration and are eager to see how many turtles will return to nest in Cozumel!

    Turtle Season of 2005

    With a new City administration headed by Gustavo Ortega Joaquin taking over in March, the 2005 Turtle Salvation Program season was officially inaugurated on May 18, 2005. Committee meetings had been held for several weeks prior to the inauguration by the 7 participating Volunteer Brigades in order to agree on governing regulations, monitoring methods and documentation procedures for the season. In addition, this season marked the first year that biologists from outside Cozumel were hired to work the Turtle Salvation Program. While the three newly arrived biologists settled into their quarters near the sanctuary, the Volunteer Brigades selected their respective nights to work during the week, the sanctuary area for endangered nests was prepared and the military along with police were once again in charge of security to prevent visitors on the east side after dark.

    Essentially the same monitoring methodology used in the 2004 season was again adopted for 2005 since no meaningful season results were captured in 2004 due to weather related damage to nesting beaches caused by IVAN. Basically the volunteers and biologists work together to accurately mark the turtle nest locations with GPS without excavating the eggs. The only nests excavated and relocated to the sanctuary area are those determined to be “in danger” of poaching or natural elements. After the appropriate incubation period, volunteers and biologists will then to return to the nest site, excavate and determine how many of that nest’s eggs actually hatched. The one downside to this methodology is that while it can be determined how many eggs actually hatched, it cannot be proven these hatchlings actually made it to the ocean. Some could have been taken by natural predators and not made it to the sea at all. That being said, the governing Committee for the Turtle Salvation Program still deemed this to be the best alternative given the limited resources available.

    The turtle nesting season began strong with 3 biologists in conjunction with the 7 different Brigade’s 100+ volunteers who worked throughout the season to register nest locations, gather details (tag number, size of shell, etc.) on the adult females coming ashore to nest and to count open egg shells to determine hatch rates. As it turned out, the 2005 Turtle Season was a record year with a total of 1,987 nests registered on Cozumel beaches. The loggerheads made 115 of the registered nests while green turtles dug an incredible 1,872 nests on Cozumel beaches.

    Once again, the season was going very well with all Volunteer Brigades reporting a high level of turtles coming in to lay nests each night. Unfortunately, much of the work done by the volunteers (and the turtles) was undone this season by Mother Nature as Cozumel was hit not once but twice by Category 4 hurricanes. Prior to the hurricanes the Volunteer Brigades managed to monitor 522 nests for hatch rates. The hatch rates varied by beach but overall Cozumel experienced an 87% hatch rate on PRE-hurricane nests.

    On July 17th, at the very peak of the green turtle nesting season, hurricane EMILY swept over the island in less than 15 hours but dealt a severe blow to the Turtle Salvation efforts. Every beach on the east side of the island where the turtles nest lost vast quantities of sand to the sea and with that went turtle nests as well. All told, 40 nests were swept out of the sanctuary area and over 700 nests registered on the beaches were lost to EMILY.

    To the credit of the Volunteer Brigades, only 5 or 6 nights of monitoring were lost after EMILY even though the east side road was barely passable. The City along with military crews closed the roads to the public but made safe passages through the debris so the Volunteer Brigades could continue their work with the turtles. In addition, on October 14th a ceremonial “releasing of turtles” was hosted by Presidente Gustavo Ortega Joaquin. City buses and donated private transport buses took over 600 children and families to the sanctuary at San Martin beach for the release at sundown. Presidente Gustavo commented on the dedication of the Volunteer Brigades in the wake of EMILY and encouraged all Cozumelenos to conserve and preserve Cozumel’s natural resources including the turtles. With these words of hope and encouragement, the biologists assisted children in releasing hundreds of baby turtles to the sea.

    What we could not know at that beautiful moment in the moonlight was that Mother Mature was not yet finished with Cozumel.

    On October 20th, as the nests laid just after EMILY had begun to hatch out, another Category 4 hurricane, WILMA, hit the island and lingered for more than 2 days. Between the sanctuary and other beaches, there were an additional 184 registered nests lost to the effects of WILMA. After WILMA, over 90 baby turtle hatchlings were rescued from all over the island in varying conditions of health. Those nests that managed to survive the hurricanes suffered a significant reduction in hatch rates depending on which beach they were located and how hard a hit that particular beach incurred. Historically, hatch rates for Cozumel have been in the 85 – 88% range. Post hurricanes, the observed hatch rates dropped to a devastating 18% - 60% depending on the beach.

    Given the state of things post-WILMA the Turtle Salvation Program terminated 2 weeks earlier than normal with activities suspended October 30th. Even with these devastating blows brought on by Mother Nature, the 2005 Turtle Salvation Season did achieve some great milestones. The record number of nests registered coupled with the increased awareness for conservation brought about by the open “turtle release” ceremony held by the City are but two of the admirable accomplishments for the 2005 Turtle Salvation Season.

    All of the Volunteer Brigades were amazed each week as the number of registered nests continued to climb beyond any numbers previously recorded in a season. This is a very positive and hopeful sign that all of the efforts of these past 15+ years by countless unnamed volunteers working in the wee hours of the night on Cozumel’s desolate beaches has not been in vain.
    Turtle Season of 2006

    Turtle Season of 2006
    The governing Committee for the Turtle Salvation Program began meeting in February 2006 to discuss the results of the 2005 Season and begin preparing for the 2006 Season. The Volunteer Brigades were formed and actual turtle activity monitoring officially began May 15, 2006 with an inauguration ceremony given by Presidente Gustavo Ortega Joaquin. Further updates will be posted as the season progresses.

    After 6 months of effort, late nights, sand, rain and clouds of mosquitoes, the 2006 Season has come to a close this past week for the 100 volunteer brigadistas of Cozumel's Marine Turtle Salvation Program.

    The 2006 Season was filled with many successes for the Program. Early in the season, all brigades were asked to participate in the modification of the logo for the Program which now appears on all documents and public display items. Then later in the Season the Committee Chairman was invited to national and regional conservation conferences to present an analysis of Cozumel's 2005 Season statistics. The data from the 2005 Season has become important throughout the conservation community because Cozumel is the only known location to have 2 category 5 hurricanes within a 90 day period during a turtle nesting season where data was collected in a systematic manner. The data collected last year by the brigades following the storms shows the impact on marine life that such natural disasters can have.

    For the first time in the history of the program, guided visits to the turtle camp area were provided to different sectors of the Cozumel community in order to increase awareness and promote conservation. Almost 1200 local persons visited the camp area to observe the process of nesting and liberating the baby turtles.

    During the 2006 Season, a total 1,618 nests were registered by the volunteer brigades and then over 800 of these were actually visited again and checked/cleaned after the incubation period to determine hatch rates for the season. There were 115 loggerhead nests (Caretta caretta) and 1503 green (Chelonia mydas) turtle nests registered. Based on the statistical survey done, each nest had an average of 115 eggs and there were 87 hatches per 100 eggs deposited (87%). Based on this, by the end of the season there will have been about 186,000 turtle eggs deposited on the east coast beaches. And then when all nests have hatched, approximately 161,880 baby turtles will have been born and liberated from the shores of Cozumel. In comparison, last year saw 113,000 baby turtles born and liberated from the shores.

    As the 2006 Season closed, the brigades gathered toether to pass out t-shirts and hold a public turtle release event for some of Cozumel's children. Stories and pictures were shared as everyone realized all of the new things learned this season and all of the new friends made as well.


    A big thanks to all of the 100+ volunteer brigadistas who worked tirelessly all night long, each night of the week during the past 6 months of nesting season to help protect and promote Cozumel's marine turtle population. None of the successes achieved this season would be possible without the volunteer brigades: Grupo IslaMar, Club Shalom, Park Natcional Arrecifes of Cozumel, Foundation of Parks and Museums of Cozumel, Department of Ecology and Ayuntamiento of Cozumel. All of the brigades worked together and joined forces for the 2006 Season to take advantage of over 20 years of conservation efforts lead by the City.



    2007 Turtle Nesting Season
    Beautiful face of female whilst laying eggs!
    As the 2007 turtle nesting season began everyone was excited to see how many turtles would arrive this year to nest. Given the amazing increase in the number of nests marked and monitored the past two seasons, both the managing committee members and brigrade members wondered what the season would bring.

    Thankfully Cozumel beaches managed to skate through the 2007 hurricane season with only one real storm scare from Hurricane Dean. Although the storm came close to the island and ended up making landfall in far south Mexico near Mahahual, the storm surge for Cozumel beaches was minimal so very few turtle nests were affected. With no storm interference for the entire nesting season, the nesting turtles were very busy and mother nature did not disappoint.

    Brigadista taking statistics marking turtle nest
    The 2007 turtle nesting season ended with a record 2,899 nests being marked on Cozumel's east side beaches from Mezcalito's southward to Paradise Cafe. Of these 2,899 nests, 2,747 were green turtles and 152 were loggerheads. Playa Bonita was by far the most popular beach for the turtles this year with almost 1,000 green turtles and 37 loggerheads going there to nest.

    Volunteers excavating nests to check hatch rates.Once the nests are marked by the volunteer brigade members, incubation and hatching occur naturally there on the beach just as mother nature intended. Then it is the brigade's job to go back to each nest site just around the date of hatching in order to excavate the nest and determine how many of the eggs hatched. Based on those findings from actually excavating the nests, it turns out the green turtles experienced a 79% hatch rate while the loggerheads had 80%.


    Volunteer counting turtle eggs and hatchesAs a result of all the hard work of over 60 volunteer brigade members marking and documenting nest details, the statistics show that approximately 4,400 baby loggerhead turtles hatched on Cozumel's beaches and over 215,000 baby green turtles.

    This season also saw the inaugural year of a fundraising effort for the program which turned out to be hugely successful raising over US$ 12,000. To recognize those who supported the program fundraiser, we offer our sincere thanks for the generous contributions List of Turtle Program Donors & Supporters for 2007 Campaign


  • And once again a big thank you to all of the volunteer brigade members who helped document Cozumel's biggest turtle nesting season ever!

    Baby turtles on their way to the sea!Baby turtles first feel of the sea!
    2008 Turtle Nesting Season

    Having set an all time record in 2007 for number of turtle nests marked on Cozumel's beaches, both the managing committee and brigade volunteers were eager to begin the 2008 season. With the City election for Presidente (Mayor) in early 2008, all the government personnel was changing over from one political party to another (PAN to PRI) just as the turtle nesting season got underway. Everyone was sad to see the Program Coordinator, Christopher Gonzales Baca depart after 3 years of extraordinary service to both the City and the Turtle Program. However, the Turtle Program was fortunate in that the newly elected Presidente selected one of the long time managing Committee members to lead the Program so continuity was not entirely lost in the changeover.

    Once again, mother nature was kind to Cozumel beaches during the tropical storm season as there were no tropical storms or hurricanes that even came close to the island in 2008 nesting season. As you may recall, we lost over 1000 nests in 2005 to hurricane activity so a calm storm season is critical to a successful turtle nesting season. This year Brigada IslaMar's own lead member "Pantera" actually began working full time for the City in the turtle program going out every night with each brigade. Pantera was responsible for finding the clutch of eggs in each nest, ensuring they were marked and recorded properly and coordinating the activities of each night's volunteer effort. Once again in 2008 the turtles came in strong were very busy nesting for a full 5 months.

    Sea Turtle making nest on Cozumel Beach
    The 2008 turtle nesting season ended with a record 2,957 nests being marked on Cozumel's east side beaches from Mezcalito's southward to Paradise Cafe. Of these 2,965 nests, 2,774 were green turtles and 183 were loggerheads. Playa Bonita was again by far the most popular beach for the turtles this year followed by Punta Morena and Playa Box.

    Brigade Islamar's The work of the volunteer brigade members is to mark the clutch of eggs in various ways so that once incubation and hatching occur, then it is the brigade's job to go back to each nest site just around the date of hatching in order to excavate the nest and determine how many of the eggs hatched. Based on those findings from actually excavating the nests, it turns out the green turtles experienced a 84.1% hatch rate while the loggerheads had 83.7%.


    Volunteers releasing babies to the seaAs a result of all the hard work of over 60 volunteer brigade members marking and documenting nest details, the statistics show that approximately 7,700 baby loggerhead turtles hatched on Cozumel's beaches and over 207,000 baby green turtles.

    And once again a big THANK YOU to all of the volunteer brigade members who helped document Cozumel's biggest turtle nesting season ever ~ Wild Tours, Marine Park Cozumel, Parks & Museums Foundation, CIMAC and Grupo Isla Mar.




    Sunrise over a perfect sea turtle nestClutch of Sea Turtle eggs on Cozumel beacheeeewwww that water is cold!!!
    2009Turtle Nesting Season
    Baby turtle tracks into the sea!
    The 2009 sea turtle nesting season in Cozumel began with the announcement in May of a new Program Coordinator appointed by the City: Sr. Rodrigo Navarro. Within days of being appointed, Sr. Navarro called the Managing Committee into session to get ready for the upcoming nesting season. Unfortunately, Sr. Navarro's first task was to inform the Committee that as a result of the global financial crisis as well as the economic impact from the Swine Flu shutdown of Mexico that the budget for the Turtle Protection program had been cut by 60%. As a result, the program has had to be very inventive this year in trying to continue the program and cover costs since essentially there is no money available from the City this year.

    With this in mind, the Committee enacted the following immediate measures in order to try to generate sufficient funding to keep the program going throughout the 2009 season:

    Volunteers Working a Sea Turtle Nest

    1. Tourists visiting Cozumel or those living here who would like to work for an entire night side by side with a turtle brigade can do so during the 2009 season for a nominal donation per person from May 25 through November 15, 2009.

    To make a request to participate visit Turtle Participation Link Deactivated at end of 2009
    NOTE: Requests are submitted to an approval process and are handled on first-come, first-serve basis. Please allow 1 week for a response.



    Baby turtles go into the sea for the first time!
    2. Tourists visiting Cozumel or those living here who would like to observe, learn and release baby turtles one night for a few hours with a turtle brigade can do so during the 2009 season for a nominal donation per person from August 1 through September 15, 2009 only.

    To make a request to participate visit Turtle Participation Link Deactivated at end of 2009
    NOTE: Requests are submitted to an approval process and are handled on first-come, first-serve basis. Please allow 1 week for a response.



    3. Although no organized fundraising effort was coordinated prior to the season, a general campaign will be ongoing during the 2009 season to try to ensure the program stays active and can complete the work of the 2009 season. Then, there will be an organized fundraiser prior to the beginning of the 2010 turtle nesting season.

    Click here to read more, make a contribution and to become a Cozumel Turtle Program Supporter now!

    We need your support!

    Show me Turtle Supporters & Donor List for 2009

    2009 Turtle Nesting Update July 1st: 202 Nests Marked

    2009 Turtle Nesting Update August 1st: 786 Nests Marked

    2009 Turtle Nesting Update August 19th: 1161 Nests Marked

    2009 Turtle Nesting Update September 7th: 1427 Nests Marked

    Volunteers work hard but with rewards!Volunteers measuring the size of a turtleVolunteers checking hatch rate of a nest
    2010 Turtle Nesting Season
    The 2010 sea turtle nesting season in Cozumel began anew this year following the announcement in November 2009 of a new Program Coordinator appointed by the City: Sr. Rafael Chacon.

    2010 Turtle Nesting Update July 1st: 200 Nests Marked

    2010 Turtle Nesting Update August 31st: 3900 Nests Marked

    2010 Turtle Nesting Update October 25th: 3958 Nests Marked

    Turtle Nesting Final Results
    Turtle Species #Nests #Nests Chkd Hatch %
    Caretta caretta (T. Caguama) (Loggerhead) 256 157 86.56%
    Chelonia mydas (T. Blanca) (Green) 4,039 2,543 87.91%
    Season Total 4,295 2,700 89.25%

    2011 Turtle Nesting Season

    The 2011 Cozumel marine turtle nesting season got off to a fast start with over 45 loggerhead nests registered during the month of May. The Municipal Committee that manages the activities of the Turtle Salvation Program began meeting in April under the leadership of a new Director of Ecology Héctor González Cortés. Héctor González Cortés previously worked for Fundacion de Parques y Museos and has served on Cozumel's Turtle Program Committee for over 12 years.

    City funds were low as the nesting season begins this year so the Committee decided to once again allow tourists and volunteers to participate in the program for a nominal donation which goes toward funding gas, supplies and a lead biologist.

    For the 2011 Season there were 2 ways for visitors or islanders to participate for an evening ~

    Tourists visiting Cozumel or those living here who would like to work for an entire night (or morning) side by side with a turtle brigade did so during the sea turtle nesting season for a nominal donation per person from June 1 through November 15 annually.

    Tourists visiting Cozumel or those living here who would like to observe, learn and release baby turtles one night for a few hours with a turtle brigade did so during the sea turtle nesting season for a nominal donation per person from June 1 through September 15 annually.

    NOTE: Requests were submitted to an approval process and are handled on first-come, first-serve basis.

    Read more about Cozumel's Turtle Program Fundraising Campaigns of the Past 2011 Participant & Donor THANK YOU Page

    2011 Turtle Nesting Update July 10: 985 Nests Marked - 158 Loggerheads & 827 Greens

    2011 Turtle Nesting Update July 31: 2,500 Nests Marked - 250 Loggerheads & 2,250 Greens

    Turtle Nesting Final Results
    Turtle Species #Nests Hatch % Est. Hatchlings
    Caretta caretta (T. Caguama) (Loggerhead) 188 88.14% 17,179
    Chelonia mydas (T. Blanca) (Green) 2,917 92.21% 312,066
    Season Total 3,105 n/a 329,245


    2012 Turtle Nesting Season
    The 2012 Cozumel marine turtle nesting season is underway! The Municipal Committee that manages the activities of the Turtle Salvation Program began meeting in April under the leadership of a new Director of Ecology. The previous Director Héctor González Cortés returned to his position managing the marine turtle sanctuary for Fundacion de Parques y Museos and continues to serve on Cozumel's Municipal Turtle Program Committee as he has done for over 13 years.

    City funds are low as the nesting season begins this year so the Municipal Committee decided to once again allow tourists and volunteers to participate in their turtle conservation program for a nominal donation which goes toward funding gas, supplies and a lead biologist.

    In addition, the Fundacion de Parques y Museos will continue to allow tourists and volunteers to participate in their turtle sanctuary program at Punta Sur for a nominal donation which goes toward funding supplies, gas and biologists who work with the turtles throughout the six month season.



    CLICK HERE to Donate/Participate with FP&M Brigade in Nest Monitoring & Baby Turtle Releases

    Donations Raised this year as of October by this website for the turtle program: Over US$ 10,000
    THANK YOU for participating and donating!!


    2012 Turtle Nesting Update June 12: 300 Nests Marked

    2012 Turtle Nesting Update July 10: 1,450 Nests Marked

    2012 Turtle Nesting Update August 30: 4,425 Nests Marked

    2012 Turtle Nesting Update September 10: 5,015 Nests Marked ~ Breaking previous 2010 record of 4295!

    2012 Turtle FINAL Nesting Update October 15: 5,263 Nests Marked ~ 4,825 Greens & 438 Loggerheads

    2013 Turtle Nesting Season
    On my way to the sea!!The 2013 Cozumel marine turtle nesting season is once again underway! The Municipal Committee that manages the activities of the Turtle Salvation Program began meeting in May to prepare for the season ahead.

    As always and especially since its an election year, City funds are low as the turtle nesting season begins this year so the Municipal Committee decided to once again allow tourists and volunteers to participate in their turtle conservation program for a nominal donation which goes toward funding gas, supplies and a lead biologist.

    In addition, the Fundacion de Parques y Museos will continue to allow tourists and volunteers to participate in their turtle sanctuary program at Punta Sur for a nominal donation which goes toward funding supplies, gas and biologists who work with the turtles throughout the six month season.

    For the 2013 Season there are 2 ways for visitors or islanders to participate in these turtle salvation programs ~

    1. Join the Municipal Turtle Salvation Program - Mescalitos to Rasta's Beach
    Tourists visiting Cozumel or those living here who would like to work for an entire night (or evening depending on the time of year) side by side with a turtle brigade can do so during the sea turtle nesting season for a nominal donation of US$ 55 for Adults and US$ 30 for kids 13 and under (those 5 and under are free). These activities run from approximately June 1 through November 15 annually.

    There are several spaces for volunteers each evening with the city program and it is important to register in advance at the Municipal Department of Ecology and Environment. Their offices are located at the Environmental Interpretation Park on 65 Avenida near Calle 27 Sur and are open 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday to receive volunteer registrations.

    2. Join the Fundacion de Parques & Museos Turtle Salvation Program - Punta Sur Entrance to Lighthouse
    Tourists visiting Cozumel or those living here who would like to observe nesting turtles, learn about them and release baby turtles one night for a few hours with the FP&M brigade in Punta Sur can do so during the sea turtle nesting season for a nominal donation of $ 60 per adult and $35 for kids from June 1 through November 15 annually.

    There is space for up to 25 participants each night but ADVANCE registration is required.
    Pick up and transportation is provided and guest pick up is offered at many hotels.

    CLICK HERE to Donate/Participate with FP&M Brigade Nest Monitoring & Baby Turtle Releases

    2013 Turtle Nesting Update June 6: 350 Nests Marked ~ 150 are Loggerhead

    2013 Turtle Nesting Update July 6: 2,350 Nests Marked

    2013 Turtle Nesting Update August 30: 5,100 Nests Marked

    Donations Raised in 2013 by this website for the turtle program: Over US$ 11,500

    THANK YOU for reserving via our website, participating and donating to the turtles!!

    Turtle Nesting Final Results
    Program Ecology FP&M Total
    Turtle Species # Nests # Nests # Nests
    Caretta caretta (T. Caguama) (Loggerhead) 257 57 314
    Chelonia mydas (T. Blanca) (Green) 5,451 643 6,094
    Season Total 5,708 700 6,408

    Questions or more information?
  • If you would like to donate supplies used by the volunteer brigades, please use the list above to make purchases and then email for drop off instructions. turtles@cozumelinsider.com.

  • If you have any questions about the Turtle Salvation Programs, please email turtles@cozumelinsider.com.
  • Those wanting to participate in EITHER conservation effort during their vacation stay must register in advance as outlined above. NOTE: Annual Turtle nesting activity runs June 1 through November 15 only.

  • Register to Participate/Donate in FP&M Turtle Salvation Program




    The best sight ever - "the baby turtle making its way back to the sea" !


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