- Title: MEXICO-TURTLES/DRONES Mexico deploys drones to protect turtle eggs from poachers
- Date: 11th September 2015
- Summary: MORRO AYUTA BEACH, OAXACA, MEXICO (SEPTEMBER 10, 2015) (REUTERS) DRONE IN AIR INSPECTORS LOOKING AT COMPUTER SCREEN OF COMPUTER WITH VIEW FROM DRONE DRONE IN AIR
- Embargoed: 26th September 2015 13:00
- Location: Mexico
- Country: Mexico
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVA35C5GPFEPBMNU0CZG2KVLCUE
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Mexican authorities deployed on Thursday (September 10) drones to protect the southwestern Oaxaca beaches against a reported surge in turtle egg poaching of the threatened Olive Ridley turtle, which return to the country's coast each year to lay their eggs in the sand.
About 70,000 turtles were estimated to have arrived in what is the fifth landing of the season. In a span of about two days, the turtles are expected to lay hundreds of thousands of eggs.
The sale of turtle meat and eggs has been banned in Mexico for more than two decades, but the threat of a hefty jail sentence has not been enough to deter poachers.
Environmental activists estimated that up to 80 percent of turtle eggs on one night earlier this season had been poached at Ayuta Morro beach after marines guarding the area left following security concerns in other areas of the country.
In response, Mexico's Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection, or PROFEPA, decided to increase the number of inspectors guarding the eggs and begin using drones.
PROFEPA inspector Edgar Ferrusquilla said the drones will make it easier to catch poachers.
"From the air, it's easy to identify the paths. When someone walks, they leave a track and, when many people start to walk along that track, then we start to see paths. So this equipment (referring to the drone) helps us identify that kind of access from land which we can't see due to the hills and the vegetation. And the perspective changes a lot from the air," he said.
Earlier this summer, Reuters television filmed local residents digging at the beach in broad daylight to steal the estimated hundreds of thousands of eggs laid by turtles.
Subsistent fisherman in the area can reportedly sell turtle eggs sell for up to 15 Mexican pesos (about 90 U.S. cents) each. Local residents living on the coast have long eaten turtle eggs which have risen in price due to their illegality.
Some 170,000 turtles are estimated to have landed in the Morro Ayuta beach which, along with Escobilla beach, are considered the largest egg sanctuary sites for the Olive Ridley turtle.
PROFEPA inspector Hector Hernandez said they had been successful in protecting the eggs.
"As federal inspectors, we secure the eggs in a precautionary manner. Up to now, we've secured up to 9,000 turtle eggs which we rejoin to the beach," Hernandez said, adding, "It's the fifth arrival (of turtles) and, up to now, there have been approximately 10,000 eggs. On average, each turtle lays 100 eggs so, as an estimate, you can multiply that by 10,000."
Humans are the biggest threat to Mexico's turtles, but baby turtles and eggs are also hunted by birds, dogs, crabs and sharks. It is estimated that on average, out of 10,000 that hatch, just 0.02 to 0.2 percent of turtles reach adulthood, environmental experts say.
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