A researcher is kneeling on a sandy beach, measuring the amount of seaweed wash-up with a marked pole, with the ocean in the background.

Sea Turtle Hospital Struggles: Bureaucratic Red Tape Delaying Reopening

Nearly a year after its approved reopening, the Tortugranja in Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo – the first turtle hospital in Mexico – remains embroiled in bureaucratic red tape. The center is striving to regain its former status as a research and educational facility and tourist attraction. However, delays in obtaining necessary documentation from the federal government have hindered progress, according to Gisela Maldonado Saldaña, Vice President of the Caribbean Sea Turtle Group.

The Destination Agreement in 2023 granted access to the turtle center, but only to municipal staff and caretakers of the over ten reptiles residing there. This agreement allows public institutions to use and exploit maritime-terrestrial zones.

"The municipality is making efforts and is keen on rehabilitating the place. But as the turtle is a species in danger of extinction, it is of federal interest, and the response from the authority can take time," explained Saldaña.

She added that the municipal authority has been closely involved with the project, even bolstering it with a protection and nesting program on the island. This program runs alongside the ongoing legal procedures. Meanwhile, the Caribbean Sea Turtle Group provides talks and training to support and advise on the center's reactivation.

Saldaña acknowledged that the center's current conditions are not ideal for immediate reopening to the public, even if bureaucratic procedures were expedited. She believes that funding, possibly from the federal government, will be necessary for its restoration.

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"The Tortugranja has been neglected for over a year, and the facilities are dilapidated. We're working with the municipal authority to do everything we can, within the legal framework, to ensure the center can operate again for research and conservation of the sea turtle," said Saldaña.

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