Mexico evacuates sea turtle eggs from beaches as Hurricane Beryl heads toward Yucatan Peninsula


CANCUN, Mexico (AP) — Hit by past failures to prepare for hurricanes, the Mexican government on Wednesday began evacuating even sea turtle eggs from beaches in anticipation of hurricanes. Hurricane Beryl.

While Beryl is still far offshore in the Caribbean, near Jamaica, the storm is expected to make landfall somewhere south of Cancun on Thursday night or Friday morning.

Given that Mexico has done so little to warn or evacuate residents of the Pacific coast resort of Acapulco during Hurricane Otis in OctoberThis time, authorities are being extra cautious and are digging up newly laid sea turtle eggs for fear that they will be washed away by the storm surge.

Government workers stored the Carey sea turtle eggs in dozens of coolers covered with sand while they moved the eggs to safer locations.

In other places they used sandbags as barriers to create safe ‘fences’ to protect the turtle nests from the expected strong waves.

Biologist Graciela Tiburcio, one of Mexico’s leading experts on sea turtles, said it was an extreme measure that could prevent some turtle eggs from hatching.

“Look, it’s not the best thing to do, but we’re dealing with an emergency situation where they could all be lost if they don’t take them out,” said Tiburcio, who was not involved in the operation.

Several species of sea turtles come ashore in and around Cancun to lay their eggs in the sand, where the young hatch a few weeks later and crawl out to sea. People are normally told not to disturb the nests, as the sand keeps them at the ideal temperature for hatching.

Furthermore, it is believed that sea turtles use the natural light on the beaches to orient themselves, and often return to the same spot after maturing.

But Beryl’s waves and storm surge could simply sweep them out to sea, where they could not get out.

“In a normal situation, this would not be right, because this will definitely cause mortality,” Tiburcio said. “There will be a lower hatching rate, that is the reality. But it is also a reality that if the nests remain there, they will all be lost.”

Cancun’s municipal environmental department did not immediately respond to requests for comment on where the turtle eggs were being taken for safekeeping. But in a social media post, the office said it had excavated more than 10,000 eggs from about 93 nests.

Carey’s turtles, like all sea turtles, are protected species in Mexico and taking their eggs, which were eaten a lot in the past, is forbidden.

It’s not just about turtles: further south on the Caribbean coast, in the fishing village of Punta Allen, soldiers, police and marines urged the 700 residents to completely evacuate their homes.

Punta Allen is located on a narrow promontory south of the resort town of Tulum.

A Punta Allen resident who asked not to be named said many residents, about half the population, are resisting calls to evacuate.

“They’re asking everyone to leave Punta Allen … but people don’t want to leave,” she said. “They don’t have money and they don’t want to leave their belongings.”

In addition, the woman said, the government provides free transportation there, but does not give people transportation back after the hurricane passes.

Many people in Mexico have long distrusted government disaster response efforts, as officials often fail to enforce zoning and safety regulations and little is done ahead of storms.

Acapulco is still struggling to recover from Category 5 Hurricane Otis in October, which left at least 52 dead and destroyed or damaged most hotels.


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