WILDLIFE CONSERVATION PROGRAMS
We have incorporated three wildlife conservation projects into our expeditions. Not everyone who has an interest in the protection and conservation of wildlife has the opportunity to get out into the field and participate in such programs. Now, with Panterra, you can participate in both the conservation and research of marine wildlife by joining us on one of our expeditions or by a kind monetary donation which Panterra will match up to $500.00 USD. Panterra supports these conservation efforts by contributing material and monetary donations to all projects.
The programs are as follows:
1. Whale Shark Research (Sea of Cortez)
The whale shark is the largest fish in the world reaching a length of up to 20 meters. They are harmless plankton eaters, and tend to feed close to the ocean surface. They can live to 100 years and females start reproducing around 30 years of age. The whale shark is easily identified due to its very distinctive pattern of white colored spots, its wide mouth and enormous size. Because of their rarity and elusiveness, little is known about this species of shark. They are highly migratory and only through world collaboration can these animals truly be studied and conservation programs be put into place. There are only four places on the planet that whale sharks make predictable appearances at certain times of year. The Sea of Cortez is one of those 4 spots.
We will be working with local student researchers. The research will consist of photo ID, gathering data on size, sex and scars, taking DNA samples and placing satellite tags where applicable. This means that we will be observing, and where legally possible, working alongside the researchers to save these gentle giants of the sea!
In May 2017 our whale shark research trip was focussed on the first time ever attempted ultrasound on a pregnant female whale shark. We did not get to actually do it but close enough to prove it could be done. Guests Bill and Linda Klipp, professional photographers, captured the essence of the trip in their blogs below.
2. Sea Turtle Monitoring (Sea of Cortez)
Five of the world’s eight species of sea turtles (Loggerheads, Leatherbacks, Green, Olive Ridleys, and Hawksbills) they can be found on the Pacific side of the Baja and in the Sea of Cortez. Most sea turtles migrate between foraging and nesting grounds, and seasonally to warmer waters. These migrations can take them hundreds to thousands of miles. A Loggerhead that was tagged in the Sea of Cortez, 16 months and 11,000 kilometers later, was found in Japan. They can go without food for a very long time and they can hold their breath underwater for anywhere from 1 hour to months at a time depending on the species and the activity they are engaged in. It is not known how long sea turtles live. Scientists have recorded life-spans up to 175 years but there is no accurate way of aging these amazing creatures. Sea turtles are on the critically endangered/threatened species list.
The ultimate goal of the conservation project is to capture the turtles, measure, weigh and tag them, then release them back into the sea. Gathering this information gives researchers the opportunity to learn about their migrations, life cycles and social structures.
We will be assisting Felipe Cuevas and his father Palo who are local fishermen from the village of Pardito. These two men are responsible for the program in their community. The monitoring takes place over a 24 hour period with checks every 4 hours. Not to worry, in between the monitoring periods we will be hiking, snorkeling and kayaking.
3. Sea Turtle Hatchling Release (Sea of Cortez and Pacific Ocean)
Three species of Sea Turtle (Leatherback, Olive Ridley and Green) nest on the beaches of the southern Baja where the conservation programs are carried out; some nest year round and others seasonally.
Sea Turtle nests rely on the heat of the sand for incubation. Temperatures of the sand where the turtles nest determine the sex of the turtle: below 30°celcius is predominately male; above 30°celcius is predominately female. Typically nests that are laid after October 1 are relocated to incubation areas where the average sand temperatures are 30°celcius. Hatchlings incubated inside the incubation site are hatched healthier than those hatched in their natural nests during the fall and winter months. Deformities can occur with the changes in temperature.
Climate change and human encroachment also plays a role in affecting nesting grounds. If conservation is to be effective not only must the nesting beaches be monitored and protected, but also the migrating, foraging, and mating animals.
It is believed that 1 in 1000 hatchlings will make it to maturity. Sexual maturity may range from as early as three years in Leatherbacks to 6 – 10 years in Olive Ridleys to 20-50 years in green sea turtles.
All whale shark and turtle images posted on this site are copyrighted by Lela Sankeralli. No images may be used in any form without the written permission of Lela Sankeralli. Unauthorized use is subject to severe civil and criminal penalties under Canadian and international copyright laws.