Barra Vieja, Mexico, February 16, 2012 – Two-day-old baby leatherback sea turtles swim in a salt water pool at Campamento Tortuguera, an organization that works to save the turtles from human predators by digging up the eggs laid by the mothers and transporting them to the camp each night. The eggs are reburied in the sand at the camp where they will take another two months to hatch. After they hatch, they spend two days in the pool before being released into the ocean.
Leatherbacks are one of the more endangered species, mostly due to human activity, including being caught in fishing nets, ingestion of plastic and trash, and illegal egg collection. The latter is a considerable problem in Mexico despite laws enacted in 1991 protecting the turtles.
According to local lore, because the turtles take as long as 18 hours to mate, it was believed that eating the eggs would increase virility. This is of course not true. In fact the entire process of mating, including courtship takes place of 18 or so hours. Actual intercourse last no longer than 4-5 minutes. Still some believe in the eggs effects.
Thieves can collect hundreds of eggs per night – on average a mother turtle lays about 110 eggs at one time. The eggs sale for about 5 Mexican pesos each, or about $0.40 cents US.