“Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.” ~
Since I was knee-high to a cricket I have been fascinated by turtles. The whole idea of being able to retreat into a protective shell when the world gets too dangerous or you simply need shelter is amazing to me.
Sea turtles are a tourist’s delight when visiting the Riviera Maya. They are up there with celebrity watching! Sadly however, these mystic and magical creatures are on the endangered species list. But before we get to that, read on.
Turtles are tough dudes who managed to outlive dinosaurs (talk about major bragging rights!) They have survived ice ages, famine, deadly predators, climate change and human destruction to their environment all due to their sheer determination and ability to take adversity in stride (without hardly striding at all!)
Frankly turtles rock! Turtles don’t really AGE and in fact they don’t really die of old age. This is due in part to their slow metabolism and their ability to regulate their heartbeat (like an on and off switch) so their organs don’t deteriorate like humans. Next time your annoying friend brags about his “fast” metabolism tell him the turtle is probably the longest living animal on earth due to its slow metabolism (“na-na-na-na-na”!) In fact if turtles didn’t get sick, eaten, harmed by humans, or crushed by cars they could live indefinitely. (Sadly there’s no cure for the “predator” known as the automobile.)
Scientists compared a one hundred year old turtle’s organs to a teenage turtle and they were virtually the same. (Get me some turtle DNA and make it SNAPPY!) And as female turtles age, they crank it out of the ballpark by actually producing more eggs than the younger females! Researchers think turtles may hold the secret to extending human life. Clearly we shouldn’t be fooled by their rheumy eyes, slow plodding gait or their wrinkles as turtles are literally young at heart!
When females are born it seems a “magnetic address” of their birthplace is imprinted on them. So when they are ready to give birth, most swim thousands of miles back to their exact birthplace! The female has an arduous job crawling slowly across the sand facing predators in order to lay her eggs in a hole and then cover them safely with sand. She then leaves her eggs to hatch on their own (wow talk about teaching independence at a young age!) When possible, turtle conservationists dig up the eggs immediately and move them to a protected area where they bury them again and put wire fencing around each nest. This protects the eggs from predators giving them a better chance at survival, and once the babies hatch, they too make the arduous journey into the sea.
Sadly, they need all the help they can get these days because these amazing reptiles are now threatened with extinction due to hunting, capture in fisheries, beach degradation and marine pollution. Hard to believe that such a valuable animal which may hold the secret to human longevity, is dying needlessly in large part due to humans.
Many organizations are working to preserve this noble creature, including the Marine Sea Turtle Festival held October 13th to 16th in Akumal (about 30 miles south of Playa del Carmen, MX) which provides an interactive opportunity for participants to learn about this endangered species. If this isn’t a good cause I don’t know what is…
Turtles are great teachers if you’re looking for a life lesson and here’s a few.
*Learn to slow down and take things at your own pace.
*Be self-sufficient (they carry their own houses on their backs for heaven’s sake!)
*Listen and watch closely before you make a move.
*Learn to develop a tough shell to withstand the hard knocks of life.
*Know when to retreat into your shell when you’re overloaded.
*Have courage & commitment to stick to your goals (think about the courage it’s got to take to cross a busy road with no ability to rush or swerve?)
Most importantly, make every step count when you do make a move and when you can, sail through the waters of life…
If you ever get to Playa del Carmen, don’t miss the chance of swimming with turtles and be sure to make a donation to a reputable turtle preservation group. http://www.playadelcarmentours.com/sea-turtle-snorkeling-akumal-bay.htm