TURTLES, THEY COME AND GO
The uninterrupted cycle of nature observed.
The first turtle lands. I consider myself lucky. I am honoring my appointment with her. But she barely sees me. She has her target, her objective. After thousands of miles from who-knows-where, there she is, tired and panting. And she is focusing on just one thing. Climb up the beach, dig a hole, hatch her eggs, cover the hole and go. Turtles, they come and go.
Delivering babies can be something devoid of feelings for some species. Or maybe I am wrong, who knows. She went all the way up, I observed. And as she was digging, another one came. And then another, and later another. By the time I looked up towards the horizon, a few dozens of them had already landed and were making their way up the beach. Vultures seemed to know, and as turtles multiplied, so did them. They can’t do much to such a big giant rock of an animal, but they’re the first ones for diner when one of them dies of exhaustion. The spectacle and the smell of death were strong by the end of the day. The scavengers were having a feast : fresh eggs and dying turtles. Enough to feed an entire regiment. Such pain lies in nature. Nature is beautiful, but nature is not always fair, nature isn’t always kind, and nature can be ugly too, for the empathic ones.
At times, it is hard not to intrude. But the reality is that there is enough work just trying to minimize our own impact on them. Fishing, littering, warming up the oceans, touring in protected areas… Therefore, I stayed still and put, and I watched. The smell was close to unbearable and the spectacle, too, at times. But other times, I looked up to these thousands of sea dinosaurs, and I felt just stoned. Thrilled by the circle of life. After traveling thousands of miles, these mamas come lay their eggs on the same exact beach they were born. Why, how, I’m not sure we’ll ever know exactly how their DNA works. What is innate, what is learnt. But that can only make one wonder, how many of these animals were ever born here ? That must be counted in millions.
Mexico isn’t really famous for its biodiversity. It’s unfair, because it’s known to the Mexicans, as well as to the scientific community, but most of us know Mexico for its drugs, its violence, its cartels, its corruption. And yet. Yet after over a year in this country, I can deplore only one extortion of money by a transit police. No one ever tried to bother me, to take advantage of me, or was even just the slightest mean. It happened to me a few times that men looked at me with a perv look. But they were foreigners, so does that count ?
Instead, I have made friends even in the middle of a pandemic, I have been offered lodging for free, I have been invited for lunch by strangers, and I have received smiles and good wishes every single day. If anything, I can say that Mexico’s reputation is rather undeserved. Yes it is a country that has its problems, like most of them. Yes it has a strong history of violence and drugs, yes it has a present made of obesity and diabetes. But it gives birth to the kindest people I have ever met in 20 years of travels.
Back to biodiversity, the country alone is home to between 10 and 12% of the world’s biodiversity, slightly less than Brazil. And alongside with 16 other “mega diverse” countries, it co-hosts 60 to 70% of it. Mexico also ranks first in global biodiversity in reptiles, second in mammals, fourth in amphibians and fourth in flora. Mexico is also considered the second country in the world in ecosystems and fourth in overall species. Yet, I had never heard about that before landing here. It is a high migration destination for birds, whales, rays, butterflies, turtles, and... Americans. But I had no idea about all that either. Fifteen percent of the Mexican population is indigenous, against below one percent in Brazil. They totalize over 50 different languages. As for the state with the largest indigenous population, it is right where I live, the state of Oaxaca. Oaxaca, which capital of the same name was just elected best city of the world by Travel + Leisure's. With all that in mind, one would think Mexico would be in the top travel destinations of the world. But while it ranked seventh in the number of arrivals in 2019, a vast portion of this is for business and is coming from its main neighbor, the United States.
As for worldwide tourism, there is not much yet beside its main attraction, Cancun. That sometimes saddens me, and at times, instead, it makes me happy. There is no mass tourism as such outside of Cancun, and in a lot of attractions, you may well end-up being alone. Who can actually say today that they can sit in front of a smoking and boiling volcano, by themselves ? That they can go and see whales, by themselves ? That they can release baby turtles with just a small bunch of other people, that they don’t need to reserve before going to a gastronomic restaurant… ?
Unfortunately, the country, like most countries now, fights for its economic growth and tends not put its environment first. And while it is sad, as months pass by, I discover more and more little initiatives to preserve fauna and flora, to monitor migrations of all sorts, to preserve indigenous languages, lands and culture, and to promote local cuisine.
Last week, I visited a very little Sea Turtle conservation center on the coast of Oaxaca, and I was able to attend a baby turtle release. Ten people are being employed in this center, and ten more volunteer. They receive a very little subvention from the government but that doesn’t suffice to do what they have to do. So people donate. Sometimes a few dollars, sometimes way more. It depends on people, their possibilities, their level of engagement. But even if you couldn’t give a cent, you’d be received with a smile, you’d be explained why their 365 days a year job is so important, and you’d be given a baby turtle in a coconut shell, to go and release it on the beach, give it a name, and send it all your best wishes so that it gets to the salt waters of the Pacific safe and sound. As to what happens later… there’s just nothing you can do about. It’s just called nature.
It has taken us a while to find the perfect place to live. And actually we now know for a fact it doesn’t exist. But it makes us pretty pretty happy to live here among Mexicans and the nature, that’s a fact.
Olive Ridley Sea Turtles
A herd is a social group of certain animals of the same species, either wild or domestic. The form of collective animal behavior associated with this is referred to as herding.
The term herd is generally applied to mammals, and most particularly to the grazing ungulates that classically display this behaviour.
* Human Parallels :
The term herd is also applied metaphorically to human beings in social psychology, with the concept of herd behaviour. However both the term and concepts that underlie its use are controversial.