Sea Turtle & Coastal Ecology Conservation Volunteer Projects in Mexico
- Placement location: Cuyutlan
- Role: Work in sea turtle hatcheries, with captive breeding crocodiles and wildlife research
- Main Research Focus: Conservation of sea turtles, crocodiles and native birds
- Local Environment: Coastal
- Accommodation: Volunteer house near the beach
- Price: From
- What's included? Food, accommodation, transfers to and from our specified airport, transport to and from work where required, insurance, personal webpage, induction and orientation, 24/7 support
- What's not included? Flights, visa costs, spending money
- Length of placement: From 1 week
- Start dates: Flexible
Our Conservation & Environment Project in Mexico offers volunteers a rare opportunity to work directly with sea turtles, help protect their nests and eggs, and directly contribute to the protection of these increasingly endangered creatures. Volunteers also get to work closely with crocodiles and iguanas, and take part in ongoing and important biodiversity studies in nearby lagoons and estuaries, and the data gathered is used by researchers across the Americas.
This project would be ideal for anyone with an interest in nature and adventure. You will get to perform real hands-on work and learn about some fascinating wildlife, all while living near the beach and enjoying all that Mexico has to offer. You do not need previous experience to take part in this project. Volunteers are welcome on a gap year, a career break, for university research, or as part of a summer holiday.
The turtle conservation centre, El Tortugario Centro Ecológico de Cuyutlan, is based in Cuyutlan and is located next to the lagoon where biodiversity studies are conducted. Some of the activities listed below are carried out on a daily basis, some other once or twice a week and others depend on a particular season, event or on the number of volunteers we have, but we always seek to make your weekly work as varied and balanced as possible. Additionally, there can be spontaneous activities/excursions or workshops.
Here you will find answers to the following questions:
What is my role on this Conservation & Environment project?
Volunteers on this project can take part in a wide variety of activities, such as:
- Working with trained staff to conserve endangered turtles including:
- Patrolling and monitoring a 30 km stretch of beach for turtle nests and eggs, and for keeping an eye out for poaching activities. The beach has black sand due to volcanic activity.
- Collecting information about the in-situ or poached nests for research and statistical purposes.
- Monitoring the nests where the relocated eggs have been placed, and once the baby turtles have hatched, helping to clean the nests and release the hatchlings into the sea.
- Cleaning of adult and hatchling sea turtle tanks, and cleaning of adult turtles and generally looking after their wellbeing (ensuring that they are well fed, unstressed, uninjured and that they are measured and weighed once a month).
- Spending one day each week at the crocodile park, in Cofradia de Morelos, including:
- Helping to prepare food for the crocodiles.
- Taking biometric data and marking the crocodiles in nearby lagoons.
- Taking part in painting and maintenance work.
- Working with iguanas:
- Volunteers will help feed baby and adult green iguanas, and maintain their enclosures.
- Working with staff on a biodiversity project, including:
- Learning how to identify a large variety of birds.
- Monitoring the presence and condition of wildlife in the Palo Verde estuary and El Chupadero lagoon
- Maintaining a register through direct observation and camera traps for night surveillance.
- Monitoring the state of nearby mangrove forests, and collecting data on the state of the forests.
- Helping to grow mangrove seedlings in a greenhouse and reforest areas where the mangrove forests have been damaged or removed.
- Recording information on data sheets and then entering it into a computer database back at the conservation centre.
- Educational and environmental outreach:
- Volunteers take part in environmental education initiatives through visiting schools and running environmental awareness campaigns in nearby communities.
- Taking part in community beach clean-ups.
Some of this work takes place at night, so volunteers work on a rota. This normally involves you working for around 5 hours each day. There is also plenty of time for volunteers to relax and enjoy some leisure time. This is especially true during the hottest part of the day when we avoid the midday sun!
There are turtles all year round in Mexico, but the high season is from June to December, with September usually being the busiest month. However, we are finding increasing numbers of rarer turtle species, such as Green Turtles and the gigantic Leatherback Turtles nesting on the beach in all seasons.
From January to May there are fewer turtles nesting each night, allowing us to concentrate on other activities at the conservation centre and basic maintenance and cleaning at the volunteer house.
What are the aims of this Conservation & Environment project?
The aims and objectives of this project involve the conservation and reintroduction of various species of wildlife. We are also involved in biodiversity studies. Conservation sites in Mexico are protected by SEMARNAT (The Department of Environmental Affairs and Natural Resources). In recognition of our commitment to conservation we have been entrusted to manage a section of coastline stretching 24km.
One of the conditions of our agreement with SEMARNAT is that we undertake significant scientific research on the coastline. We have a wide range of established and new projects which survive thanks to our volunteers. The three main species we work to conserve are Olive Ridley turtles, American crocodiles and Morelet’s crocodiles.
Since 2006 we have also been working at a lagoon called "El Chupadero". Following several years of data collection by the volunteers the area was declared a Ramsar site in March 2009. A Ramsar site is awarded by the Ramsar Convention. They recognise wetlands as ecosystems that are extremely important for biodiversity. This is one of the most important titles a protected area can receive. It is testament to the hard work and effort put in by volunteers and staff.
You can read more detailed information about the aims of the project in our Mexico Conservation Management Plan.
Where will I live on this project?
Volunteers will live in a volunteer house about 1 km from the turtle conservation centre, and a few kilometres from a small resort town. This house has several single and shared bedrooms, a communal kitchen and a swimming pool. It will soon feel like home!
Lunch is provided by a local cook, with a late lunch being the main meal of the day. This is a great time to discuss the previous night's work. There is food provided in the kitchen for volunteers to make breakfast and supper. There is a weekly work roster and this includes taking your turn at doing the washing up - there are all sorts of aspects to overseas voluntary work! You'll also have time to relax or read, and many volunteers invest in one of Mexico's best inventions - the hammock!
- The Projects Abroad House at Cuyutlán is equipped with mosquito nets at every door and window, so you don’t need to bring your own bed mosquito net. On the other hand, you might want to bring your own sleeping bag, bedsheets or pillow, since the ones we have at the house are from previous volunteers.
- It is always convenient to have a good stock of sunscreen and mosquito repellent at hand. If you don’t want to be carrying this extra-weight from home, you can always buy them at the local supermarket.
- Ankle-high neoprene boots are the ideal footwear to go into mangroves, but a good pair of old tennis shoes will make the trick just as fine if willing to use them exclusively for this activity. Just keep in mind that low water shoes and rubber boots may not be very practical as they are likely to get stuck in the mud!
- For any monitoring out in the nature you should wear comfortable long pants and long sleeves. A hat or cap may well come in handy for bird-watching.
- For cleaning the turtles' tanks, water-shoes have proven to be the most suitable option, because it can be slippery.
You can join the Conservation & Environment project in Mexico for one, two or three weeks if you don't have time to join us for four weeks or more. This project has been selected by our local colleagues as being suitable for short term volunteering for both the host community and the volunteer. Although you will gain a valuable cultural insight and work intensely on a variety of conservation activities please be aware that you may not be able to make the same impact as someone volunteering for a longer period. Volunteers joining the Conservation & Environment project for just one week should arrive at a weekend.