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Turtley Awesome News!

Coming soon! Turtles, sea life, and conservation!

Animal lovers, ocean lovers, nature lovers, and Isla Mujeres lovers … we have some amazing news for you! On June 16th, 2023 (World Sea Turtle Day), it was announced that Isla Mujeres’ turtle farm, Tortugranja, a rescue and protection sanctuary, will reopen its doors, and continue the important and good work of protecting the planet’s marine life while educating and inspiring visitors and locals alike. Thank you President Atenea Gómez Ricalde & her team for this big achievement.

What and where is Tortugranja?

Tortugranja, which translates to ‘Turtle farm’, is in Isla Mujeres’ south end, in the peninsula of Sac Bajo. This project was and continues to be an important project of love and care towards marine life, in particular sea turtles, and it was a popular spot amongst visitors and locals alike, who could go to see the good work that was being done by the workers and volunteers.

Isla Mujeres is a prevalent nesting ground for a variety of different sea turtle species, including – Loggerhead Turtles, Hawksbill Turtles, and Green Turtles. These sea turtles travel 1000’s miles and return to Isla Mujeres’ Caribbean coast to mate and lay their eggs in the soft white sand that the island has to offer, from May – September. Due to the work and efforts of Tortugranja, its workers, and volunteers, as well as the education that they have provided, many hundreds of sea turtles have survived, and are still returning to Isla Mujeres today to continue reproducing at their ancestral hatching grounds.

What is done to protect sea turtles?

As turtles arrive on Isla Mujeres to nest and lay their eggs at night, volunteers patrol the Caribbean beaches and carefully gather the eggs laid, taking them to the turtle farm, and placing them into protected pens, to keep them safe from predators such as birds, dogs, and humans. Once these eggs have hatched, the baby turtles are kept in holding tanks and then released into the sea on the Caribbean side of the island.

What was a visit to Tortugranja like?

Arriving at Tortugranja, you would pay entry, and be given the opportunity to buy some food to feed the rescued, adult sea turtles located in the tanks outside, and in the aquarium.

A visit to the island’s turtle farm would usually include a walk through the indoor aquarium, where you could admire the tanks around the room, filled with sea life including colorful, tropical fish; sea snails; seahorses; crabs; lobsters; starfish, and many more. In the center of the room is where you would see tanks with the sea turtle hatchlings (depending on the time of the year) and other rescued turtles that for one reason or another, unfortunately, could not be released back into the ocean, due to injuries or rare diseases - including the famous albino turtle, which unfortunately could not endure too much time in the sunshine.

As you went outside, you could find the protected nest area on the sandy beach, as well as more tanks with other adult sea turtles that were unable to be released. There was also a dock over the sea, where you could walk and see not only some giant sea turtles that were being protected in the area, but also nurse sharks and a manta ray. At one point there was even a rescued dolphin here that they were caring for.

So why and when did it close?

Tortugranja, once a very popular island location to visit and enjoy viewing marine life, closed its doors unexpectedly in September 2021 due to a change in government and a misunderstanding over the land. Since then volunteers have been continuing to oversee the nesting turtles, and protecting their eggs by placing them in a protected nesting area on a beach in the north end of the island.

Why is it important to reopen the turtle farm and when is Tortugranja reopening?

Reopening the site of the turtle farm is important to provide a space to educate visitors and locals on the significance of conserving the lives of sea turtles and other marine life. It also provides an inspiring location to view and experience the incredible work being done, as well as a home for rescued sea life.

An exact date for the reopening of Tortugranja has not yet been given, however, events are being held to reintroduce the previous site of the program to the islanders and promote the project’s work of conservation and protecting the sea turtles. We believe that the reopening may be at some point this summer… watch this space!

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