Yucatan Dispatch 8 October 26, 2009 from Isla Cozumel, Mexico

Myfanwy and I landed in Cozumel at 10am, whereupon Robert Cudney, Director of Mexico Silvestre, an NGO dedicated to promoting the concept of wilderness in Mexican society. Robert immediately whisked us away to scout the island of Cozumel. This gave us the chance to survey the scene and gather our bearings to the task ahead of us. One of the first sites we visited was ground zero of the new marina development project. I was stunned. This construction site is enormous, and obviously close to being finished – all that remains is to connect the site to its ocean inlet. To do so, they will need to dredge the nearby natural caleta (a natural harbor), which serves as the current marina. This construction will impact a neighboring cenote, dubbed “El Aerolito,” where a taxonomic Family entirely new to science was discovered. Robert speculates that it is only a matter of time before the land dispute over the dredging will clear up in favor of the development. We had been on the island for less than an hour, yet a feeling of hopelessness loomed. If decision makers here approve a development project as ill conceived as this one without hesitation, what else will we find here?

Our spirits lifted when we rounded the southern tip of the island and started up the eastern side, “la silvestre lado de Isla Cozumel.” The eastern side is beautiful, almost completely undeveloped, and everywhere you looked on the coastline, locals were enjoying a Sunday at the beach with their families. Then we hit the best surprise of all – Robert pulled off to the side of the road when he saw one of his friends monitoring a green sea turtle nest hatching. I snapped photo after photo of the local children shrieking with excitement as they carried the hatchlings to the water’s edge, releasing them. As we watched the hatchlings battle the waves and head out to sea, the despair we felt at the beginning of the day lifted. There is an incredible story to tell here, and we begin in earnest tomorrow.