Turtles Return to Protected Beach, Oaxaca, Mexico
“This is one of the beaches we work to protect. There are three dogs that appear in this video (below, by Ave Centellas); when we started there were 30 [dogs] in packs of four and five,” says Dr. Richard Rodger, a veterinarian from North Grafton, Mass. who helps protect the endangered sea turtle population in Oaxaca, Mexico.
For several years, Becker College animal studies students have applied to volunteer with the Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association Charities Mazunte Turtle Project. The students selected spend more than 100 hours over one week in January to assist in the spaying, neutering, and deworming of overpopulations of stray dogs, which eat turtle eggs and hatchlings. In 2012, three Becker students participated, and at the conclusion of the project, more than 1,400 baby sea turtles had been released and more than 280 cats and dogs had been spayed and neutered in 15 towns.
“I have been involved with the Mazunte Turtle Project for two years—and it is such an amazing experience!” says Brooke Cote ’13 (pictured below, center, with fellow Becker students Danielle Craven [r] and Whitney Smith [l]). “It is so rewarding to know that just a small group of people can make a huge impact over such a short period of time. The continual commitment and determination to spay and neuter as many dogs and cats as we can in only one week out of the whole year can truly make a difference for the rest of the world. I know when I get older and have children and grandchildren, I will want them to be able to go to aquariums or beaches and see sea turtles in real life. It would be so devastating for such an awesome animal to go away forever.”
Not only do turtles and dogs benefit from the project; humans do as well. The turtles draw tourists to towns along the Oaxacan coast, and the decrease in stray dogs and improved health of treated dogs have resulted in increased safety to promote a more robust tourist economy. Cote, who is president of the Becker College Student Government Association and an active student leader, created the Becker Mazunte Turtle Project student organization, which raises funds on campus to cover much of the trip’s expenses.