Greetings from the Corcovado Foundation Sea Turtle Conservation Program! Every turtle season is different, and 2013 has witnessed some big changes and some positive steps forward for the community of El Progreso. The program has welcomed more volunteers than ever to Drake Bay this year, up around 30% compared to 2012, and more volunteers are participating for four weeks or more. In order to increase support the local community conservation association, ACOTPRO, it is also now mandatory for all volunteers to spend at least a week in a homestay house, and most prefer to stay in their houses for the entirety of their stay. This has led to a dramatic increase in income for the houses in the homestay network, earning 60% more in just four months this year than they earned during the entire 2012 season! Nine local houses have now been established as ACOTPRO homestays, and families have begun to divide income from their households so that even more members can benefit. So far sixteen members have received income this year from housing volunteers, up from nine in 2012.
The story from the nesting turtles though is less positive, and the 2013 season has reminded everyone just how endangered the sea turtles are and how they are teetering on the brink of extinction in Drake Bay. During the period 01 July to 15 October 2013 just 72 turtles came to nest on Drake Beach. This is the lowest number of nests registered during this period in any season since 2006 and the hatchery sadly remains only half full. We all sincerely hope that this reduction in numbers is just part of a long-term cycle in nesting activity, and that the village will find lots more turtles nesting next year. One piece of very good news is that Drake Bay seems to be once again welcoming rare species to its nesting beaches. In 2011, 2012 and 2013, endangered Pacific Green turtles were found on Drake Beach and their nests incubated in the hatchery. This year, for the first time since in perhaps ten years, critically endangered Pacific Hawksbill turtles have laid nests on the beach! This came as a great shock to the team of locals and biologists since no one had actually witnessed the adult female nesting… it only became clear when hatchlings were being released from a nest on the beach that these beautiful little coffee-colored babies were very different from the normal gray Olive Ridley turtles that the team was used to (see photos!).
The turtle camp has received lots of special attention this season, as the new building continues to be improved and modified by the volunteers. New infrastructure built this year includes a spacious clothes-drying building, new paths and gardens, and a hydroponic allotment in which the volunteers have already begun to cultivate their own lettuce, basil, cilantro, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and onions.
The training program for ACOTPRO has increased in intensity, as the Corcovado Foundation attempts to provide the locals with all of the skills that they will need in order to run their own turtle conservation project and volunteer program in 2014. Activities have so far included a business plan exercise and formulation of the vision and mission of the organization, an accounting workshop, and a volunteer-led workshop to improve the ACOTPRO website, in order to make their program more attractive to international volunteers. The next phase includes workshops to assist with team planning, and the division of responsibilities between the ACOTPRO associates, the formulation of volunteer coordination protocols and tools, and the creation of their own training presentations and manuals. Efforts will continue into 2014 to provide support to ACOTPRO during this transition, while the Corcovado Foundation also starts to support additional communities in the Osa Peninsula.
From 2014 onwards the Corcovado Foundation plans to begin working with the Ministry of Environment (MINAET) to protect one of the most important sea turtle nesting beaches in the Osa: the beaches of the Río Oro National Wildlife Refuge. Plans are shaping up already so watch this space for more information, and let’s continue to save the turtles of the Osa and support the rural communities in their mission to develop sustainable ecotourism and protect their unique environment for future generations to enjoy.
The turtles and the community in Drake Bay and Río Oro thank you for your wonderful generosity!
The Corcovado Foundation Sea Turtle Conservation Program has never been busier. After seven years of protecting the turtles working alongside the local community, and raising awareness of the need to conserve the Osa Peninsula, the program is receiving more volunteers than ever. More members of the community have become involved with the program too, opening their doors to house the volunteers in ‘homestays’ in the village. The initiative has forged beautiful friendships and offers a wonderful vehicle for cultural exchange, with most volunteers ranking the homestay experience as the highlight of their trip to Costa Rica. Moreover, it has succeeded in generating extra income for locals through the sustainable use of their sea turtles, and has committed many more families to the aims of the program.
July marks the beginning of the nesting season for the Olive Ridley turtle in Costa Rica and so far the program has found three turtles in the last few nights! The construction of the hatchery has also been completed, with space for up to 120 nests, and the vigilance tower has undergone a complete restoration. Volunteers are currently working hard patrolling the beaches at night, and placing reference posts and removing trash during the day. In addition volunteers have been busy at the camp constructing and decorating a new office for the program, and will soon embark on building a new hydroponic vegetable patch at the camp, to try their hand at some sustainable agriculture. Other community project work has included building a new recycling sorting center and painting the Foundation’s education center in Drake Bay (Agujitas).
Training has begun to give local Patrol Leaders a refresher course ready to begin paid night patrols and shifts in the hatchery, and workshops will soon start to provide basic training to all members of the local conservationist association (ACOTPRO). Since 2013 will be the last season where the Foundation will be assisting ACOTPRO with the turtle program in Drake Bay, a series of workshops will begin shortly to link the association up with volunteer networks and improve their website, so that they can start to attract their own volunteers ready for 2014 and beyond.
All of the work so far this year was only made possible by generous donations made by local businesses, not-for-profit institutions, and concerned individuals like yourselves. Unfortunately the ongoing financial crisis has added extra pressure on donors in recent times, and the Foundation’s Environmental Education program in Drake Bay – which has been running for ten years – now faces closure unless extra funds can be found. This program encompasses the most important work that the Foundation does and it will have the biggest impact of all of its activities in the long run. Thanks to the free education that this program has integrated into the curriculum of local schools, a new generation of locals will grow up to take controls of local projects and tourism enterprises and see that they develop in a sustainable way, in harmony with the precious environment of the Osa Peninsula.
Please dig deep and give whatever you can to the program this season, and help us to permit the sustainable development of Drake Bay and protect its unique wildlife for future generations to enjoy.
The turtles and the community in Drake Bay thank you for your wonderful generosity!
2013 marks a very important moment in the history of the Sea Turtle Conservation Program in Drake Bay. After eight years of working in partnership with the Corcovado Foundation, the community of conservationists in Drake Bay will take control of the program for themselves in December. It’s a very exciting moment for everyone but there is still much work to do, and we will rely upon private donations more than ever in order to equip the local staff with all of the infrastructure and materials that they will need in the future. Let’s give this hard-working community the very best shot at making their program work for years to come!
With the right infrastructure in place the program will continue to provide local jobs and attract ecotourism and talented volunteers to the area. Best of all, the program will continue to protect the population of nesting sea turtles from the threat of illegal poaching, while offering a socio-economic alternative for poor families within the community.
This season the staff and volunteers from the Foundation will be giving up their time to provide a series of special workshops and classes, and will help the local conservationist association (ACOTPRO) to improve their website and develop their own volunteer program. The training will also include workshops on data management, accounting, grant writing and volunteer coordination, and the program will continue to provide free English and computing classes for the community. With the employment of a dedicated local Coordinator, Accountant and Research Assistant during 2013, it is hoped that by the end of the season the association will be running the day-to-day operations of the sea turtle program, under the supervision of the Corcovado Foundation.
There are many ways in which you can donate to the program this year:
Make a general donation clicking on the ‘donation’ button on our GlobalGiving page.
Buy something specific from the list of materials required for 2013, or specify in what area of the program you would like your donation to be invested: Conservation, Community or Camp (see image). Simply make a donation using GlobalGiving and send an email to email@example.com to state your preference.
Adopt a turtle at the Corcovado Foundation Sea Turtle Conservation Program by following this link:
Become a volunteer at the Corcovado Foundation Sea Turtle Conservation Program by following this link:
Donate by US Mobile Phone
Text GIVE 7861 to 80088 to donate $10 to Seaturtle Conservation and Environmental Education. Message and data rates may apply. Only works for US mobile phones.
Many thanks for you generous support!
Best wishes from the Corcovado Foundation
As with many grassroots programs in developing regions, the Corcovado Foundation Sea Turtle Conservation Program is only made possible by the hard work and determination of local people, the contribution of time, money and effort by volunteers, and the extraordinary generosity of individuals like yourselves. The turtles and the local community of Drake Bay, Costa Rica, would like to express their sincere gratitude for all of your help in 2012!
Thanks to your donation the program was able to create more contracted shifts for local people this year, and eight more members of the local conservationist association (ACOTPRO) were trained as Patrol Leaders, bringing the total number employed to an all-time high of 28! This association has now earned over $17,000 in salaries from the program since 2010, while the homestay houses in the village have earned over $21,000 in payments from volunteers.
Your donation also permitted greater promotion of the turtle program, which resulted in a record 73 volunteers coming to work during 2012 and a record 56 turtles being adopted, the latter raising $2,900 for the program. The extra manpower produced great results for the conservation effort, and for the first time it was possible to guard the hatchery 24/7 throughout the entire season. A record 112 nests were relocated to the hatchery, and the incidence of poaching was kept down to just 10% of nests. By the end of the season the team had tagged around 70 nesting female turtles and had liberated over 9,000 hatchlings, with many more still due to emerge from nests relocated to the beach.
Finally your donation helped to pay for the construction of a rustic new camp for program, which provided a venue for teaching and training, community events, and environmental education activities, and a humble research station from which to coordinate all of the volunteers, local staff and conservation activities.
During 2013 the program plans to contract two full-time Research Assistants from the community, and will begin to train the association ACOTPRO in volunteer management, hatchery management, and tourism and fundraising skills, so that they can begin to take on more responsibility and more control of the program. In particular, the Corcovado Foundation will help ACOTPRO to establish their own volunteer program, which should help the association to become more self-sufficient and able to generate funds to pay their own staff. However, the process has only just begun and the community needs private donations now more than ever in order to develop and promote this program so that in they won’t need to rely on such donations in the future. Donations are also urgently needed in order to purchase vital conservation equipment for the 2013 season, including materials to construct the hatchery.
Please open your heart and consider making a donation to this beautiful community-led project, and support this association of hardworking local people. With your help they can complete their training and realize their dream of eradicating poaching and creating sustainable jobs from turtle conservation in Drake Bay.
Happy New Year from everyone at the program!
Global Giving are generously offering a special Bonus Day on October 17, when they will match 30% of all donations made on that day. Please dig deep on October 17 to maximize the impact of your donation and help the community in Drake Bay to protect their sea turtles.
Around fifty years ago the beaches of Drake Bay would have welcomed four different species of nesting sea turtle: the mighty giant Leatherback, the beautiful Hawksbill, the majestic Pacific Green, and the rugged little Olive Ridley. After fifty years of intensive poaching of sea turtle eggs by the growing community of residents in Drake Bay, only the Olive Ridley survives in any significant numbers; and even though they thrive elsewhere in the East Pacific, the population in Drake Bay has been brought to the brink of extinction. Since the Sea Turtle Conservation Program began patrolling the beaches in 2006, however, egg poaching has been largely halted, offering a last minute chance for the sea turtle populations to recuperate. Will it be enough to save them from extinction in the area? Only time will tell.
After five years of patrolling the beaches of Drake Bay and Ganado, only one Hawksbill and a handful of Pacific Green turtles had been found on the remote Ganado Beach, and nothing except Olive Ridleys in Drake Bay. This all changed in 2011 when an unexpected gift with a mysterious teardrop-shaped shell crawled from the sea onto Drake Beach – a gregarious young Pacific Green turtle called ‘Talhula’. She became an instant celebrity. She was seen 14 times and left seven nests and was met by nearly everyone at the program, and a song about her was even performed by the local kids for the annual Turtle Festival of El Progreso. It was the first time a Pacific Green has been spotted on Drake Beach for at least ten years, and once she had left her final nest we sincerely thought that we would not see another of her kind until she returned to nest in a few years’ time.
Then, one morning in September 2012, the camp awoke to find a grinning patrol team still waiting in the hammocks to tell everyone the news that they had found a new, even bigger, even more beautiful Pacific Green nesting on Drake Beach the night before. This turtle, adopted by the school kids of Room 7, Sturt Street Community School in Adelaide, Australia, and named ‘Ricki’, was to be the celebrity turtle of 2012 – the turtle that everybody wanted to meet. She has already laid two nests, and we expect her to leave up to five more over the next two months J
Which each of Ricki’s eggs that is put into the hatchery to incubate, a more certain future for this species is in the area is nurtured, and it becomes even more important to protect Drake Beach as it re-emerges as a nesting site for the Pacific Green turtle – a much more seriously endangered species than the Olive Ridley. Unfortunately an egg poacher will not make this distinction and will not hesitate to deny these precious lives a chance to survive.
Please dig deep on October 17 to maximize the impact of your donation and help the community to protect their endangered sea turtles! However big or small, your donation will make a difference to the people and turtles of Drake Bay and help them to build a brighter future. Thank you for your kind generosity!
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