Elizabeth’s Landing is Truckin’ to the Yucatan!

Six copies of Elizabeth’s Landing rolled out of our post office last week headed to the city of Progreso in the State of Yucatan, Mexico. Cultural and educational exchange–I can’t think of a better way to start 2014.

Package to Kitty 60650

Elizabeth’s Landing boxed and ready (don’t worry, it went with the full address).

My husband supports a low-cost and extremely well-run program called the Progreso Apoyo Program (PAP). Each year (based on donation levels) it provides school-required supplies and uniforms to over 90 of the city’s poor, yet high-achieving students (grades 7-12). A separate grant program, Career Advancement Program of Progresso (CAPP) moves those who qualify on to and through college. Together, and student by student, these projects help weaken the cycle of poverty in Progreso.

Program director, Kitty Morgan, was delighted when we offered to donate the books. Kids begin learning English in 7th grade, she said, so the majority of the books will go to city schools and libraries. I was also happy for a chance to learn more about sea turtles living and nesting along the Yucatan.

250px-Progreso,_Yucatan

Progresso, a major port with the longest pier in the world–4 miles.

Mexico’s Caribbean beaches are prime nesting habitat to most of the world’s eight sea turtle species, including the Kemp’s ridleys featured in Elizabeth’s Landing. While ridleys rarely nest along the Yucatan Peninsula, its beaches are important for hawksbill, green, and loggerhead turtles.

Protecting sea turtles and nesting sites in the Yucatan is big, particularly in the State of Quintana Roo along the “Riveria Maya” (Cancun to Tulum). Large tracts of beaches and inland wild areas are national parks, both in Quanta Roo and the State of Yucatan. Some are remote and not easily accessible. Others along the Riviera Maya face damaging impacts from exploding tourism. 

Thanks to the work of organizations like Flora, Fauna, and Culture of MexicoCEA (Centro Ecologico Akumal)and SEE Turtleslocal groups educate kids, adults, businesses, and tourists about sea turtles and their environments. Every December Flora, Fauna, and Culture of Mexico and The Travel Foundation present the “Amigos de la Tortuga” awards to Flora, Fauna, and Culture of Mexico Amigos de La Tortuga Awardhotels that incorporate and champion turtle-friendly behaviors and programs within their businesses. 

Successes Face Difficult Future

Despite these ongoing efforts, high tourism areas face serious problems not just for the turtles, but residents, too. A summit sponsored by CEA reports that 20 years of national and international study within the Riviera Maya area called Akumal (“place of the turtle” in Mayan), shows it at a “critical moment.” Lack of infrastructure in the face of increasing/uncontrolled tourism* is seriously degrading natural and marine ecosystems. Since 2008 “50% of the coral and 40% of the seagrass have died, and fish populations have declined by 60%.” Akumal’s community and economy “depend on the delicate balance and functionality of this ecosystem. *(tourism has grown significantly in the State of Quintana Roo in the last ten years. In 2005 there were 61,335 hotel rooms. In 2012 there were 85,141. New housing and business markets also boomed, all using resources and producing waste).

Different state, different priorities

The State of the Yucatan and beaches in the city of Progreso have a history of nesting sea turtles, too. Tourism is part of everyday life here, but the situation is very different. 

“When I first visited here in 1999,” Kitty says, “high school students patrolled the beaches, marking turtle nests and handing out literature to people, living right on the beach, about what do do (and not do) if they found a nest. I was thrilled that turtles were nesting here — right in my own back yard! But no more as there are now street lights along the beach which confuse and deter the turtles (ME: beach furniture and sea walls are barriers and may not allow turtles to crawl to safe nesting spots above the high tide line, or hatchlings to reach the water).

Progreso beachfront. Wikimedia Create Commons

Progreso beachfront. Wikimedia Create Commons

The few stoic creatures who do manage to nest only provide a nice meal for the 3,000+/- feral dogs in the area. Progreso’s local government cannot deal with its street dog problem. There is no dog catcher, no pound, no shelter; the dogs simply breed and suffer by the hundreds.”

Twelve years ago, Kitty helped found the only “duly registered” humane society in Progreso in hopes of educating people about the problem. This March, thanks primarily to donations from ex-pats living in Progreso, they will open a small clinic. 

The other good news is, Kitty’s Apoyo Program sponsored a young woman who is now studying aquaculture. She will go on to college, maybe become another advocate for the region’s sea turtles. She’s definitely getting a copy of the book.

When I began writing Elizabeth’s Landing almost seven years ago I didn’t know whether it would see the light of day, ever be read by anyone but me, family, and a few close friends. To my great surprise, like the writing process itself, the book has become a bridge into foreign and exciting territory.

Kitty Morgan’s PAP and CAPP programs:

…are always looking for new partner donors to sponsor the children. Every cent goes to filling their school needs (books, pencils, paper, uniforms, etc.). We are constantly amazed how far she spreads the money. She does all the shopping, absorbs all administration costs, and provides each donor with basic information about his/her sponsored child. Every year my husband receives a photo and a thank you letter (translated by Kitty, if necessary) from his student, thanking him for his support and relating school progress, interests, and future plans. Kitty sends a detailed expense report on each child.

If you are interested in making a simple donation or becoming a sponsor in either education program, e-mail Kitty at kbmorgan_99@yahoo.com. Be sure to put PAP or CAPP as the “Subject.” She will respond with more specific information on the program(s).

If you would like to support the animal clinic, mail checks or money orders (US or Canadian), payable to Protección de Perros y Gatos a.c.  Apartado Postal No. 30, Progreso 97320 Yucatán, México. Any amount is appreciated, but donations of $100 US (or equivalent) puts your name, or that of a beloved pet, on a prominently displayed plaque in the clinic’s waiting room. Help a dog–save a turtle?

Traveling to the Yucatan?

Consider supporting certified eco-friendly hotels, restaurants, and tours. There are also a number of fine “volunteer tours” where you can work directly with sea turtle conservation programs.

Green sea turtle feeding

Green sea turtle feeding.
Creative Commons-Wiki

If you encounter sea turtles while swimming, enjoy them, but keep your distance. Conservation biologists note increasingly green sea turtles avoid traditional underwater grass feeding grounds where there are too many people or people too close.

Info and links to the Riviera Maya sea turtle conservation groups:

Flora, Fauna, and Culture’s, Sea Turtle Conservation Riviera Maya Tulum Program (Facebook) “…one of the oldest and largest in Mexico. It protects nesting turtles, their nests and hatchlings in 13 of the most important nesting beaches of this coast (Punta Venado, Paamul, Aventuras-DIF Chemuyil Xcacel-Xcacelit or, Xel-Ha, Punta Cadena, Tankah, Kanzul, Cahpechén, Lilies Balandrín, Yu-yum and San Juan) and many beaches located in protected areas, such as the Sea Turtle Sanctuary Xcacel-Xcacelito Park National Tulum and Biosphere Reserve of Sian Ka’an. This means protection and monitoring of 38.5 km. beaches, in an area of over 120 km., and our base camp on the Xcacel. We annually protect an average of 6,500 nests and free an average of 500,000 baby sea turtles.”

CEA Centro Ecologico Akumal: Established in July of 1993, CEA is a non-profit organization dedicated to the ecologically sustainable development of the Cancun-Tulum corridor. CEA promotes conservation of the natural habitat and native culture through research and education.” Facebook

SEE Turtles: “…is working to protect endangered sea turtles by growing the market for conservation travel to support small conservation programs around the world. SEE Turtles also connects volunteers to conservation projects and educates students both in the US and near key turtle nesting sites around Latin America.

Pyewacky Press will donate–

1 copy of Elizabeth’s Landing to any U.S. sea turtle conservation group’s library or store, also 1 (English language) copy to 10, non-U.S. groups. Representatives can use the Contact Me page to make a request.

Peace and do what you can. 

A Georgian-age 9-Challenges State: Save Turtles From Deadly Balloons

Activist, author, and $1,000 Kohl’s Cares Scholarship winner, Cameron (Amie) Koporc has done more for sea turtles than most people think of doing in half a lifetime. Now she’s started a petition at Change.org to get legislators to make Georgia the 7th state to protect wildlife and reduce pollution by outlawing mass balloon releases.

Balloons and ribbons--beautiful killers.

Balloons and ribbons–beautiful killers.

A former resident of Florida, now living in the Atlanta Georgia suburb of Roswell, Amie’s learned a lot about sea turtles since her family adopted a sea turtle nest in her name as a 7th birthday present. She recently told the Roswell Neighbor news journal, “When I grow up I want to work in a rescue center for ocean animals. I just hope it isn’t too late by then.” So do I, but she’s working hard to make sure turtles and other animals remain part of the planet’s ecosystems forever.

This Blaire Wirthington photo on my website page Threats to Sea Turtles illustrates what can happen when a balloon ends up at sea. This little Kemp’s ridley was lucky someone spotted him. The ribbon or string can be as deadly as the balloons.

Kemp's ridley juvenile from 65 NM west of Sarasota FL. The turtle had ingested the latex end of a toy balloon.

Ribbon trail of the balloon swallowed by a Kemp’s ridley juvenile off the Sarasota, FL coast. Photo: Blair Wirthington
photo, Blair Witherington (http://myd.as/p6429)

While Amie’s petition is directed at influencing Georgia politicians, sea turtles, birds, and people everywhere are impacted by balloon trash. All states should get the message, so each one added works to tip permanent change in the right direction. As of this writing, Amie has upped her signature goal to 2500 and is 408 signatures shy. Help by adding yours.

Still think balloons are harmless? Take a look at Balloons Blow’s photo gallery of what can happen when balloons are enjoyed without thought to what happens when they come down, pop, and no longer fun. Take a minute to look at all these ideas for celebrating, memorializing, and getting attention WITHOUT balloons. Most add to the planet or the animals and people on it, they don’t just decorate. This “follow me” balloon was left behind in my neighborhood today after a weekend open house.
open house balloon left behind
Thanks to Amie and her family for all they are doing to take a stand for sea turtles and the planet! I hope to find her book Juno’s Journey in print someday!
 *******************************

Kids, Wildlife, and Winter

“The bottom-line at the end of the day, when the kids and their parents share the excitement of being outdoors, it changes the heartbeat of a family.”  Tom Rusert, Sonoma Birding

Winter has come to our Northern California Coast

Storm of headlands

Mid-sea rain
Photo: Katy Pye
All rights reserved

My docent days at the lighthouse are quieter. Fewer guests come to visit when it rains and now that summer vacations are over.

PCLH winter

Winter – Point Cabrillo Lighthouse
Mendocino, CA
Photo: Katy Pye

But stormy days are followed by calm seas, sunshine, and now . . .

After rain photo by Katy Pye

After Rain
Point Cabrillo Lightstation Historic State Park
Photo: Katy Pye
All rights reserved

GREY WHALES!

Grey whale spouts-Katy Pye

Migrating Grey Whales
photo: Katy Pye
All rights reserved

The Greys make the world’s longest mammal migration – over 6,000 miles, Alaska to Baja, Mexico – where females give birth, nurse their young, and gather with males to breed. In early spring, they repeat the trip, babes in tow, moving slowly past us again.

Whales — one of my “winter’s here” wildlife markers.

Wildlife and Winter — Kids at Work and Wonder

Like whales here, when northern waters cool, immature sea turtles in the Atlantic migrate south, following food. Often these days, nature’s signal comes too late, or is too brief. The water turns cold too fast, leaving hundreds of sea turtles stunned on the surface. Their bodies, as if in a giant deep freeze, float almost lifeless, sometimes for months; if not rescued, these turtles will die of hunger, dehydration, or hyperthermia. Likely all three. Incoming tides and surges “strand” many, barely alive, on beaches along the coastline.

Godfrey-cold-stunned turtles

Cold-stunned sea turtles
photo: Matthew Godfrey-used with permission
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

Kids are helping save them. Nine year-old Skyler Lach is a four-year veteran sea turtle spotter. “Living on Earth,” (Public Radio International) aired a wonderful story about Skyler (you HAVE to see his picture with the turtles) and his dad, Michael, volunteers in the New England Aquarium and MA Audubon Society cold-stranding rescue program. The turtles spend a minimum of several months “thawing” and rehabing at the Aquarium, then are transported and released in warmer waters off Florida or Georgia. Listen to Skyler talk about his experience and more about the project. Know what a “wrackline” is? I didn’t.

No Sea Turtles to Find?

Take heart, there’s a lot you can do for wildlife in your neighborhood and backyard.

Check the web pages linked below for details. Here are the basics:

Hermit Thrush Photo: Katy Pye All rights reserved

Hermit Thrush
Photo: Katy Pye
All rights reserved

♥  Food — Leave dead flowers and plants in the garden as seed sources for birds. Keep bird feeders full. Make your own food sources.

Hummingbird gets food & water Photo: Katy Pye All rights reserved

Hummingbird at food & water
Photo: Katy Pye
All rights reserved

♥  Water — keep an unfrozen source around, even if all you have is an apartment patio.

♥  Shelter — Brush piles, stacked firewood, your discarded Christmas tree. Not just birds, but creatures like frogs, bugs, butterflies, and reptiles can use these piles for shelter and food, too.

Pacific Treefrog Photo: Katy Pye All rights reserved

Pacific Treefrog
Photo: Katy Pye
All rights reserved

Mule deer buck Photo: Katy Pye All rights reserved

Mule deer buck-not a rack for holiday lights
Photo: Katy Pye
All rights reserved

♥  Holiday safety — Know how your holiday decorations may affect wildlife in your area, especially if you live in a rural area.

Photo: Katy Pye All rights reserved

Beach litter
Photo: Katy Pye
All rights reserved

♥  Clean up — Litter that can injure wildlife, that’s anything they can get stuck in or they might eat, but shouldn’t.

♥  Write — a politician, supporting your favorite place or wildlife.

♥  Volunteer — at a wildlife organization or your local animal shelter. Dogs and cats need love, too!

♥  Donate — Every nickel makes a difference to your favorite cause. An amazing example of what one child, backed by energized, hard-working adults, can do, is Vivienne Harr and her “Make-a-Stand” campaign against child slavery. The point isn’t how much she made, but that she cared, had an idea, and said, “Let’s go!”

♥  Learn — Spend time outside. See if you can discover one new thing about the wildness in your backyard or neighborhood. Birds are everywhere. Which species do you see often? Audubon Society now has Christmas Bird Counts for Kids (CBC4Kids), thanks to Sonoma County, CA birders, Tom Rusert and Darren Peterie. Listen to a short interview on the recent “Bird Note” podcast. National Christmas bird counts begin mid December and end the 3rd week in January. Check your local Audubon Society to see if it sponsors CBC4Kids. If not, help start one!

All of Us Together

I love what Tom Rusert said about kids and parents birding together. What about kids who don’t live with their parents? Or parents unable or unwilling to share their kid’s interests? Author and environmentalist Rachael Carson addresses this beautifully.

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”  

It’s true for all aspects of life. While not every child will respond if we step up to give, no child can respond if we don’t. Nothing adds perspective to how we grownups see the world — on our brightest and darkest days — than a child’s wonder.

Help a child, find an adult, change a heartbeat.

Peace.

Thanks to the following organizations and sites for the tips and podcasts used here.

PRI; “Living on Earth” podcastThe Humane Society; The Bump: Preschooler; Sonoma Birding; Earthkids.com; Sonoma Birding; Bird Note

“Whatever special nests we make–leaves, moss or tents or piled stone–we all dwell in a house of one room.” John Muir

Called Out By An “Old Lady” And a Turtle

Saturday, June 16th, is World Sea Turtle Day!

Zander Srodes-by Steven Rosenbaum

Zander Srodes-by Steven Rosenbaum
TEDxTeen 2011

Twenty-two year-old Zander Srodes didn’t earn a 2012 Youth Service America “25 Most Influential and Powerful Young People in the World” award because he invented a new computer system or became the youngest person to head the World Bank. Zander only saves sea turtles. With every ounce of his being. Every day. Watch his TEDxTeen video. It’s short and he’s so cool.

Imagine the scene: 2001. Night on a Florida beach. Eleven year-old “punk” kid, showing off to his buddies. Fireworks. Old lady yelling something crazy about turtles, too much light, wrong light. Who knows? Who cares? Punk shoots off mouth back at her. Curtain falls. 

Next morning: Curtain rises. Sleep-blurred kid staggers into the kitchen. Mom and  “old lady” seem to be plotting at the table over coffee. The twinkle, twinkle, boom, bang moments of the night before are about to turn into the “it” moment for the kid who doesn’t care.

Linda Soderquist, the local turtle expert in Zander’s kitchen, didn’t scold that morning, she shared — about sea turtles, swimming and impacting the oceans for tens of thousands of years. Zander felt the turtles grab his hand. They “wouldn’t let go.”

“What can I do?” he said.

What couldn’t he do? “Turtle Talks” to the kids at school spawned a free activity book (Linda illustrated). Today, more than 250,000 copies have been distributed in five languages over 20 countries. At 22, Zander travels the world, promoting conservation through conference talks and village chats and leading summer volunteer trips for college students in Costa Rica. He’s even an ESPN radio announcer Saturdays on Florida sports!

One of Zander’s mentors is Wallace “J” Nichols (see World Oceans Day post). “J” filmed this terrific story about 92 year-old, Pak Lahanie, the sole inhabitant and “caretaker” of Durai Island, a small sea turtle nesting ground near Indonesia. For 40 years, the five island owners paid him to harvest ALL the eggs the poor sea turtles dutifully dragged themselves out of the ocean to lay. Until “J” showed up. See what Pak does now to help the turtles he’s always loved.

For”J”, sea turtles are an indicator species for what oceanographer, Dr. Sylvia Earle, illustrates so elegantly in her TEDx Prize video on the health and purpose of the world’s oceans. Our planet’s present and future don’t divide the oceans from the rest of life on earth. The oceans ARE ALL LIFE ON EARTH. Thanks to Dr. Earle’s video, I finally, completely get it.

“No water, no life, no blue, no green.” Sylvia Earle.

Moon by Katy Pye

Us with “No Blue”
Photo: Katy Pye

As Zander says, every morning you get out of bed and choose to make a positive or negative difference. Eleven years ago, Linda handed him a different set of fireworks in the form of knowledge. He’s been lighting the world for everyone since.

Sylvia Earle’s mother, “the bird lady,” healed the neighborhood’s wounded birds and animals. At 81, after her first scuba dive, she scolded Sylvia for not making her do it sooner. 

As a kid, Jacques Cousteau influenced “J” Nichols’ decision to become a sea turtle biologist.

Some people seem to know their path right out of the egg. Most of us need mentors — whether we’re kids or adults — to find our “it” moments. They kick us away from the comfortable light of the campfire toward the dim glow at the edge of the path. Then hand us the torch.

Sea Turtle Wallpaper__yvt2-rs

“SEEN THE LIGHT?”
Photo: No attribution found

June 7, 2012:  On Being:  Interview with Oceanographer Sylvia Earle (mp3 online), or via  iTunes podcast.