Home >> Oaxaca >> Mazunte >> Turtle Center

Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga
National Mexican Turtle Center

The National Mexican Turtle Center is under the direction of the National Fisheries Institute. It is located 12 kilometers west of Puerto Angel on the Puerto Angel - San Antonio federal highway.
Main Index
Fish of the Oaxacan Coast
Playa Escobilla
Of Turtles and Things
Playa Mermejita
Puerto Angel
Playa Augustinillo

In the face of the imminent extinction of the diversity of turtle species, the Mexican government called for the creation of the National Mexican Turtle Center in September of 1991. All varieties of sea turtle that live in coastal waters of Mexico are on exhibit. Additionally, there are 6 species of fresh water turtles and 2 species of land turtles. The complex covers 4 hectares (10 acres).

The research area coordinates the operation of satellite stations for the protection of important beaches in Oaxaca state. Biologists, veterinarians, and research groups study turtle behavior, diet, and monitor the quality of water in the tanks to gain insight into the problem of the protection of the species. Specific objectives are: 1) To distribute information regarding conservation and legislation for turtle protection, 2) to conduct scientific and technological research for turtle management, development, and conservation, 3) to promote the ecological tourism concept in the region, and 4) to support the community growth and development in the region.

The Turtle Center has started an agriforestry project and a chicken farm to help provide locals with alternatives to turtle harvesting.

Map of the Museum Compound

1. The town of Mazunte
2. Central Aquarium
3. Cactus garden, "Dra. Helia Bravo Hollis"
4. Multi-purpose Room
5. Residence
6. Coffee Shop, Handicrafts and Souvenirs Shop
  7. Offices
  8. Incubation Room
  9. Observation tank, young
10. Observation tank, adults
11. Water wheel
12. Hatchlings tank
13. Technical unit
14. Young's tank
15. Saltwater Tank
16. Fresh Water Tank
17. Parking Area

The Turtle Center is located in the community of Mazunte which is a couple of miles east of Puerto Angel and Zipolite on Avenida Principal. See aerial photos of the Turtle Center and Mazunte.


The Center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 AM until 4:30 PM and Sunday from 10:00 AM until 2:30 PM. All tours inside the Turtle Center are conducted by a guide, without exception. There are guides available speaking the following languages: English, German , Italian, Spanish and Zapoteco.

Turtles of the Oaxacan Coast
green turtle tortuga verde
Chelonia mydas sea turtle, 3 to 4 feet long, weighing 100 to 200 pounds, vegetarian. Although an endangered species, they are found in relatively large numbers. Photo
hawksbill tortuga carey Eretmochelys
sea turtle, 3 to 4 feet long, weighing 30 to 100 pounds, usually brown with shingle-like overlapping scales, omnivorous.
leatherback tortuga laud,
de altura,
sea turtle, 7 to 8 feet long, weighing almost a ton, world's largest turtle. The shell is smooth with several lengthwise ridges. Rarely seen.
olive ridley golfina Lepidochelys
the smallest and most abundant of the sea turtles, 2 to 2.5 feet long. In the reproductive season they arrive in large numbers for nesting; this event is called arribadas.

Sea turtles reach breeding age in 6 to 8 years. Many factors influence the return to the nesting beaches, such as "imprinting", kind of sand, temperature, streams, etc. The presence of a metallic mineral in the turtle's brain is a theory.

Playa Escobilla is the main breeding ground for the Olive Ridley or Golfina turtle. The nesting season usually begins in May and lasts for several months. The turtles come to the beach in large numbers during the nighttime hours for 2-3 evenings after a full moon. They scoop out holes in the sand 2-feet deep, deposit their eggs and cover them up. At the peak of this activity, turtles number in the thousands. The eggs look like slimy Ping-Pong balls. The eggs are valued for food and many Mexicans believe they are powerful aphrodisiacs. The beaches are patrolled by military guards carrying M-16's to protect the turtles and their eggs from poachers. The Turtle Center maintains a research facility on Playa Escobilla. See aerial photo of facility.

As a result of the preoccupation of government forces at Huatulco with searching for the rebels involved in the August 1996 attack on Huatulco, their previous duties of guarding Escobilla beach where the Golfina, an endangered sea turtle, lays its eggs were abandoned. This resulted in the looting of turtle eggs and the slaughter of the mothers. It is estimated that 800,000 to 1,000,000 eggs were taken. There were several arrests of looters and one truck was reportedly seized with a cargo of 526,000 eggs. See comment. The protection of the beaches has since resumed.

Biol. Cuauhtemoc Penaflores Salazar is the director of the Turtle Center and may be contacted at:

Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga
Mazunte, Tonameca, Oaxaca
Apdo, Postal, 16. Puerto Angel, Oaxaca, C.P. 70902

Telephone & fax: (958) 584-3376

See also
Of Turtles and Things, an article from the Mexican Meanderings newsletter.
See also Fish of the Oaxacan Coast

| Top of page | Main index | Search | What's new |
The Pacific Coast of Mexico www.tomzap.com Tom Penick:  tom@tomzap.com