Playa Hermosa Means 'Beautiful Beach' and Something Beautiful is Happening in Acapulco

By Kevin Alber

(ACAPULCO, Mexico) -- Princess Aliyah Pandolfi Executive Director of the Virginia-based Kashmir World Foundation helps save endangered species, from setting up projects to protect Rhinos in South Africa to Snow Leopards in the Himalayas, and saving the endangered Sea Turtles has been a primary calling that continues to tug.

It's an ongoing involved mission whose campaign deals with governments, major private conservation groups - and the occasional unexpected surprise.

During a December 2016 conservation tour to Central America, Princess Aliyah was excited to learn about Mexico's Playa Hermosa Sea Turtle Rescue Camp, founded 20 years ago by local biologist Monica Vallarino. The Princes and her KwF team took the one hour scenic drive 25 miles from downtown Acapulco along an enchanting coastal road to the facility. She couldn't imagine where the journey would end - at a house situated on the extensive Diamond Beach. "Driving there, my expectations were high," Princess Aliyah said, "The rescue facilities are usually fancy, but we were walking into a house. And not a fancy house, an average size house. Now I'm wondering is this a scam? A tourist trap?" But her concerns quickly grew to excitement as she walked through the humble home's living room and past the bedrooms to the outside.

The Princess thought as she looked around the backyard "I see the beach, some dogs and exotic bunnies, but where are the turtles?" Monica's daughter notices the Princess's concern and brings a few baby sea turtles, and points to the nest hatchery. There are bins and bins of newborns turtles, all in her backyard, and showing Monica's dedication to living, breathing, saving these turtles.

Campo Tortuguera rescue is run completely through volunteers, with the only full time workers being Vallarino's family, including Monica's daughter Michelle who is very proud of her mother and intends to carry on her work. Because of Acapulco's high levels of rain, the nesting season is all year round, and Camp volunteers patrol the 25 kilometers of Playa Diamante's beaches every single night.

The first thing they do is locate the mother sea turtles, who returns 25 years after having been born, to lay and bury her eggs on the same beach. "The sea turtles lay as many as 160 golf ball sized eggs in their nest, and after covering them the mother must be protected as she drags herself back down the beach to the sea," Vallarino explains. "Poachers are everywhere. Without a guard they will take them away."

Vallarino says there are two dangerous problems which have made humans the Sea Turtles biggest predator - the first being the Mexican male belief that eating Sea Turtle eggs will enhance their sexual virility, a false myth. The other is a sad but true fact - the area's growing poverty." The problem in Acapulco now is less tourists, so people need to find other ways to feed their family, and more turtles are being taken for food," she explains, "With their flesh they make stews, extract the oil from its shell, and the skin is used to make bags and wallets." Eggs are sold on the black market to the highest bidder, and one single egg can sell for as much as 25% higher than the daily minimum wage, making the incentive high and the poachers determined and lethal.

"On the beach we encounter armed people with machetes and pistols" Vallarino continued, "It gets very aggressive when they see that we take a nest, but that's my job. The danger is not important. I do it for my care for them and for the love."