At the Ayotlcalli Sea Turtle and Conservation centre, locals and volunteers from across the world join forces to save turtles from extinction.

I was extremely lucky to work in the centre this summer. I met so many great volunteers and I met so many kind, welcoming children who were excited to include me in their way of life.

The centre, situated in Playa Blanca Zihuatanejo, Guerrero in Mexico, was founded in September 2011. “This area had been neglected by the authorities, therefore, sea turtles and their nests had been taken by poachers, dogs and wild animals in regular basis” Damaris, who lives in Texas is the founder of the centre, she travels to Guerrero every summer to work with the turtles.

She told me, “we decided to take action in order to help sea turtles from extinction, with an objective to protect three species of marine turtles that nest within 15 kilometres of the beach.”

It was such a great opportunity to see so many people gather together for a great cause. But Damaris doesn’t do this work alone. It was essential for her to involve the local population in the project, especially the young generation. The children’s summer camp “Guerreros del Arcoiris” intends to establish strong foundation on conservation. Damaris said, “children are the future leaders and decision makers in the community, therefore they need the knowledge and training to make the right choices.”

Today the project welcomes volunteers from all around Mexico, and from abroad. Valeria, who travelled from Mexico City to take part in the project, said:, “I wanted to live the experience, it’s the best idea because you help a little in the world by saving turtles.”

Max is another volunteer who came from the Mexican state of Toluca, “I knew about the camp two years ago because my brother went and he spoke to me about his experience, he told me about the people he met and the work they did with turtles. For me to help people to work on something so important and something that comes from your heart, it sounded amazing so I had to be a volunteer.”

A few of the local people involved have started a patrolling system, where they travel up and down the beach every night on a quad to make sure the turtles, and their eggs, are safe.

Damaris works in the education system and she considers her work in Mexico to be one of the most important projects of her life. “Having the opportunity to help rescue an endangered species is challenging but also rewarding. We owe it to future generations. We owe it to the planet.”

“The community members are now aware of the importance of conservation, especially children” she stated. “Even though some adults are still consuming eggs and sea turtle meat, the majority know the meaning of extinction and how lucky they are to live in such a special and beautiful place, so rich in natural resources.”

Each day the children learned about turtle conservation. They had a field trip to the Amigos de Animales dog corral and cat safe house where they spent time with the animals on a nature walk and inside the corral.

They also visited the nearby Bet Shalom Senior Home where they presented a puppet show all about sea turtles and the environment. The campers then paired up with the residents to read a book together.

And the campers stayed overnight and went on a walking sea turtle patrol. Unfortunately, the only encounter they had was with a deceased sea turtle but it was a learning experience which reinforced the things the campers learned about the environment and the dangers faced by sea turtles and all sea life.

Since my return I’ve had some time to reflect on the unique opportunity I had to work in Campamento Tortuguero Ayotlcalli to save turtles from extinction. I had such a great experience, which I will be forever grateful for and I wish them all the best with the turtle releases this month!

For more information about the Ayotlcalli Sea Turtle and Conservation centre you can visit their Facebook page here. They post in both Spanish and English.

-Amy Donohoe, Mexico 2019