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Fernando Manzano

Tecolutla Turtle Preservation Project

For 30 years Fernando Manzano has dedicated himself to the protection and restoration of a beautiful, but endangered species: the Tortuga Lora. Born and raised on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, Fernando has been interested in sea turtles since he was a kid. When he was a child in Tecolutla, it was a tradition in the village to kill sea turtles for their meat and to (mistakenly) use the eggs as an aphrodisiac. This was upsetting to Fernando. One day he saw a Jacques Cousteau documentary about a sea turtle protection program and it inspired him to dedicate his life to helping his own beloved Loras. He has established the non-profit organization Grupo Ecologista Vida Milenaria A.C. whose mission is to protect the Tortuga Lora and to educate the public. Papa Tortuga (“Father Turtle”) is his nickname now. Everyone in the small town of Tecolutla knows him and they seem to appreciate his efforts. Papa Tortuga is also a husband and the father of two. Protecting the turtles is his full time job, but he doesn’t do it for the paycheck – because there isn’t one! Fernando supports himself and his family by renting tent space on his beachfront yard and selling sea-turtle souvenirs. With limited private donations and the help of volunteers he is making a difference.