Date: 10 June 2023
Authors: César Arroyo and Adriana Lechuga.
Nomination made by: Organización GroBios A.C. (Proyectos Socioecológicos para la Conservación y Protección de la Biodiversidad en Michoacán-Guerrero, México).
Elio Valle, an 85 year-old man from Mexico, has dedicated the last 40 years of his life to marine turtle conservation by protecting and caring for nests of all species, but especially the leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) or “Garapacho” as the species is known in many parts of Mexico.
During this time, señor Elio has patrolled on a daily basis the beach “Brisas del Mar” within the marine turtle Sanctuary Playa Piedra de Tlacoyunque in the state of Guerrero. Each year, this beach is home to nesting turtles several species: olive ridley (“golfina”, Lepidochelys olivacea), green turtle (“negra”, Chelonia mydas), and leatherback (“Garapacho”, Dermochelys coriacea), as well as sporadic nests of the hawksbill (“carey”, Eretmochelys imbricata).
At present, Elio runs the turtle hatchery “El Viejo del Mar” (or “The Old Man of The Sea”), which is named in honor of him and supported by the owner of the property on which the hatchery is located. In his humble, disciplined way, he finds and relocates marine turtle nests, and, after having his morning coffee, he carefully deposits the rescued eggs into their new nest in the hatchery.
At the same time, he looks for and collects newly born baby turtles to take to the shoreline to be released. Elio’s work over more than 40 years is fed by his love for his “little turtles”, as he calls them.
In October 2019, Elio participated in a “Training Course for Marine Turtle Nesting Beaches” in Bahías de Papanoa, Guerrero, México, organized by GroBios A.C. and the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo. For more than two years after, Elio wore his nametag from that course as his “official identification.”
Elio “The Old Man of the Sea” is a hero who loves marine turtles, has released thousands of baby turtles, and protected thousands of nests. “The Old Man of the Sea” performs his exemplary work humbly and filled with love for his “little turtles”.
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Crédito: GroBios A. C.