MAR 07, 2016 4:30 PM PST

The fight for survival: endangered sea turtles and impoverished Mexicans




On the Pacific coast of Mexico in Oaxaca, a human-wildlife conflict is occurring in full force. Because of the lack of employment in the local community, residents of the region - men, women, even children - often enter into the highly illegal activity of excavating Olive ridley sea turtle eggs from the turtles who come to the area’s beaches to lay their offspring. Although harvesting turtle eggs has been a part of local tradition for many years, due to the turtle's’ current endangered status, poaching and selling eggs became a federal crime in 1990, punishable for up to nine years in prison. Nevertheless, many people still hunt eggs out of necessity.

The contradictions that exist within this situation are many. As noted by National Geographic journalist, John Dickie, although enforcement on the beaches themselves is active (so active that several poachers have been shot), there is a complete lack of regulation in the marketplaces where the eggs are actually sold. One can find turtle eggs in every market stall and listed on every menu in the town of Juchitán.

Locals point out another contradiction that is just as frustrating: why does the government spend so much money on patrolling the beaches with military presence when that money could be invested into creating jobs, thus eliminating the cause of the problem all together? “We could look after our fauna. Like collecting eggs and moving them so the baby turtles could hatch,” suggests one local for the type of job programs that the government could initiate.

Source: National Geographic
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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