CANCUN, Mexico – Endangered animals such as jaguars, leatherback turtles, great curassow birds and crocodiles have been sighted in the urban areas and even in hotels of Cancun and the Riviera Maya in the Mexican Caribbean that have been empty of people following restrictions imposed on account of the coronavirus pandemic.
Alfredo Arellano, secretary of ecology and environment of the state of Quintana Roo, confirmed reports of a sighting of a jaguar in the public areas of the Sirenis hotel in Tulum and of a leatherback turtle laying eggs in the hotel area of Cancun.
A very large crocodile was seen walking quietly in the canals of the island’s square and three great curassows in Urbano Kabah ecological park, Arellano said in a telephone interview with EFE.
Arellano said that although many animals have reclaimed spaces during the quarantine imposed due to the coronavirus, cases such as that of the leatherback turtle that came to lay eggs in the hotel area of Cancun stand out.
“On an average, we only have one leatherback turtle nesting per year in the entire state and the nesting season starts until May. It’s something very unusual,” he said.
According to the official, the 2.15-meter-long (7 feet), 1.4-meter-wide turtle laid 112 eggs on the beach of the Grand Oasis hotel in Cancun’s hotel area.
A biologist by profession, the secretary of ecology explained that one of the characteristics of animal species that are endangered and inhabit natural environments is that they are shy by nature and do not like human contact.
“These species are losing their habitat as cities are getting urbanized and the spaces where they live are getting smaller,” he said.
He added that what’s happening now “are very remarkable cases because in the absence of people, with the hotels closed, empty beaches, streets without cars, animals return naturally to those areas.”
The great curassow is native to the Yucatan Peninsula and has been under protection schemes as it is endangered.
Three great curassows – one male and two females – have become frequent visitors at the Urbano Kabah Park, which was closed on March 25 as part of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“It is said that Yucatan is the land of the pheasant and the deer, and precisely this species of pheasant is the one referred to, it is only found here, in the Yucatan Peninsula. There are none anywhere else. It is an incredible thing to be able to have a male and two females of this species in Cancun,” the official said.
A significant recovery of the environment can be expected in the state as there is not a lot of burning of fossil fuels from airplanes and vehicular traffic, Arellano said.
“Let’s see what changes can be seen as there is no tourist pressure or very adverse weather conditions,” he said.
Mexico reported 132 new COVID-19 infections in the last 24 hours for a total of 717 confirmed cases with 12 deaths, four more than the previous day, the country’s health authorities said on Friday.