One of our favorite events in April is the Tinglar Festival in Luquillo, Puerto Rico. This is its’ 8th year and will be held April 13th this year in the town Plaza. The Tinglar (Sea Turtle) Festival is in honor of the importance of the beaches in Luquillo as breeding grounds for the Sea Turtles of the Caribbean. Offering food, music, and art, this festival aslo offers excellent children’s and informational activities on the environment, sea turtles and the Northeast Ecological Corridor.
At least four of the seven species of sea turtles can be found in Puerto Rico, or nest on the beaches during breeding season – primarily along the North coast and in Culebra and Vieques. Those turtle species are: the Leatherback, the Hawksbill, the Green Turtle, and the Loggerhead. The Hawksbill turtle and the Leatherback sea turtle, are critically endangered. All coastal waters surrounding Culebra and Mona Island in Puerto Rico are designated as critical habitats by the federal government.
Recently in late 2012, the reefs in Isla Verde were also given protection and the beaches are watched and protected. The coastal area from Ocean Park to Isla Verde, lined by condominium towers and hotels, has the most popular beach spots for tourists and locals in San Juan, Puerto Rico, bringing thousands of visitors on a daily basis. Despite the crowds and development, this sandy stretch remains a prime nesting ground for sea turtles. Beach goers in Puerto Rico, have been able to witness first hand the birth of Leatherback turtles. An example of this happened along a crowded stretch of beach in Ocean Park, in the San Juan area in 2012. Dozens of endangered sea turtles were born, emerging from their sandy nest after two months of incubation and headed straight to sea, to the delight of people on hand to see the spectacle. The crowd of people at the beach helped the newborn turtles to the water, as they welcomed them to the world. Most hatches take place at night, to protect the turtles from predators, so this was quite an experience for the crowd. You can help support the protection efforts by purchasing their fundraiser coloring book HERE.
In Culebra, from April to early June, the sea turtles spend the evenings trudging up the beach at Playa Resaca and Playa Brava to dig holes and lay eggs before returning to the sea in grand displays of sand-tossing to cover their tracks. The non-profit organization Coralations accepts volunteers to catalog the turtles when they nest.
Many organizations are also looking to protect the Northeast beaches as well. The area under consideration is called the Northeast Ecological Corridor. Its 3,200 acres include forests, wetlands, beaches, coral communities, a bioluminescent lagoon and one of the hottest surfing spots on Puerto Rico’s east coast: “La Selva” (the jungle). It would also connect with the Rainforest’s protected areas, providing a safe haven for animals to travel naturally from mountain to ocean along the many rivers in the Corridor. The Tinglar Festival celebrates not only the beauty and majesty of these endangered sea turtles, but also works to increase protection of the Northeast Ecologoical Corridor.
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