Barra Vieja, Mexico, February 17, 2012 – A portrait of Mumia (full name withheld), an admitted turtle egg thief. He claims that because he is ill that he is unable to work full time. He says he takes the eggs to sell to friends because it is the most lucrative work he can find. He has been arrested twice for stealing eggs, serving 6 months each time, yet he continues to steal the eggs he says because it is the only way to support his family.
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.