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!
Adopt a turtle at the Corcovado Foundation Sea Turtle Conservation Program by following this link:
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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!
The Corcovado Foundation Sea Turtle Conservation Program has never been busier. After six years without a place to permanently call home, in July 2012 volunteers and local staff were gifted a beautiful new camp in the village of El Progreso in Drake Bay – a blank canvass ready to be converted into vibrant base for the program, a home for the coordinators, and a hive of conservation activities. This was only made possible by generous donations made by local businesses, not-for-profit institutions from around the world, and concerned individuals like yourselves.
Throughout July and August, in addition to preparing the beach and building the field station for the 2012 nesting season, international volunteers worked around the clock constructing furniture, painting and decorating, planting trees and food, and organizing the logistics of the camp in order to bring online all of the new facilities and infrastructure. The camp, which used to be an old farm house, was refurbished and now features a dorm with a capacity of 12, bathrooms and showers, a kitchen, store room and bike station, and a multi-use rancho area equipped with a table, projector screen, book exchange and hammocks. Volunteers have also constructed a volleyball court, a scenic river trail, a community recycling station, and a hydroponic vegetable patch and composter.
On the beaches international volunteers have worked alongside members of the community association (ACOTPRO) to clean both Drake Beach and Ganado Beach (a beautiful wilderness sadly contaminated by thousands of plastic bottles washed up from the Pacific Ocean), and to prepare the hatchery and vigilance tower ready for the 2012 nesting season. The latter structure, known as the ‘chante’, was once again found to be heavily vandalized at the beginning of the season but was completely restored to a standard even higher than in previous seasons, thanks to a generous donation awarded to the program by Humane Society International. This grant also paid for new bikes in order for patrol teams to reach the beach, and new patrol equipment and dataloggers (digital thermometers) to monitor the temperature of nests on the beach and in the hatchery.
All of those involved in the program were rewarded with what has been the best season for turtle nesting since the program began. Despite a quiet start in July, the season suddenly burst into life and has since witnessed the most nests ever registered by the program in the month of August.
Unfortunately 2012 has also witnessed a big increase in the incidence of poaching, with local poachers being spotted on Drake Beach every night. Around 10% of nests have been lost so far this year to poachers, and the game of cat and mouse continues. From the beginning of September the program moves into a vulnerable period with the lowest number of international volunteers available and the greatest number of turtles nesting on the beaches. In order to deploy patrol teams onto the beaches every night and relocate turtle nests to the hatchery, the budget for local salaries is being drastically over-stretched. The cost to deploy the minimum number of local Patrol Leaders required for one night is $110. The program needs private donations more than ever at this moment to sustain this level of spending and maintain the struggle against illegal poaching.
Please dig deep and give whatever you can to the program this September, and help us to permit the survival of this endangered species in Drake Bay for future generations to enjoy.
The turtles thank you for your wonderful generosity!
On 01 July the Sea Turtle Conservation Program will begin its seventh season protecting the beaches of Drake Bay from the threat of egg poaching. For the international volunteers and tourists who arrive at the program to each year, one of the first questions they ask is ‘how do we do it?’
Like many similar beaches around Central America, for decades Drake Beach was visited every night during the turtle nesting season by local egg poachers, or ‘hueveros’, from nearby communities. The hueveros succeeded in removing nearly every single nest from the beach and so the turtle population was brought to the brink of extinction. This pattern changed dramatically in 2006 when the Corcovado Foundation began to protect the beach and offered local people the socioeconomic alternative to work with the program as Patrol Leaders and earn a regular salary. Despite these opportunities however, there are still some hueveros in the community that continue to try to take nests, either to eat or to sell on the black market, and so international volunteers and local Patrol Leaders head to the beach every night to defend the turtles’ right to survival.
Throughout the entire rainy season teams of patrollers head to the beach from 8pm until 5am every night, enduring extreme weather conditions such as wind and heavy rain. The walking can be tough on the soft sand and the teams do not use any white light, so as not to deter any turtles from coming out of the sea. It takes a little time for the eyes to adjust to the darkness, especially when there is no moonlight, and so it can be quite a strange experience the first time. The teams walk quickly to look for tracks left behind in the sand by the turtles and find any nests before the hueveros can get a chance. Upon finding a track, which is surprisingly easy to spot in the dark, they follow it up the beach to see if there is still a turtle at the end of it. Sometimes they are lucky and the team gets to witness the magical nesting process, an instinctive set of actions programmed into the genes of every female turtle by 200 million years of evolution.
The Olive Ridley turtle crawls from the sea and selects a spot to nest in somewhere above the high tide line. Next she uses her front flippers and body to clear the area of debris and create a depression in the sand called a body pit. Once she is ready she uses her back flippers to carefully dig a perfect hole in the sand 45 cm deep, without looking, which includes a wider chamber at the bottom for the eggs to fall into. After dropping around 100 ping pong ball-sized eggs into the hole she proceeds to collapse the sand in on top of the nest and compact it down using her full body weight, before finally using her front flippers to cast loose sand over the site in an effort to camouflage her work.
This final step is somewhat in vain though as her tracks are easily visible and hueveros are able to ‘read’ the clues left behind in the sand and quickly work out where the eggs are buried. Fortunately for her though the Patrol Leaders of the Sea Turtle Conservation Program also have the same skills, so as long as the team arrives before any hueveros do, her eggs will be saved by the team.
After taking all of the eggs from the nest and recording data, the team now heads to the hatchery – a secure enclosure with 24-hour surveillance that offers protection both from hueveros and natural predators. Here a local Hatchery Manager carefully relocates all of the eggs to a new hole in the sand and looks after them while they incubate. Fifty days later the nest comes alive with tiny hatch lings climbing out of the sand, which the Hatchery Manager then carefully measures and weighs before releasing them onto the beach. The Program says its last goodbyes to the turtles as they may their way down the sand and into the surf to begin their amazing life journey, hopefully to return again some 15 years later to nest in the protected wilderness of Drake Bay.
Please help the community of Drake Bay and the Corcovado Foundation to continue to protect the endangered sea turtles, and make a donation to this wonderful community-led conservation program.
Global Giving are generously offering a special Bonus Day on June 13, where they will match 30% of all donations made on that day. Please dig deep on June 13 and support our grassroots initiative and help the community in Drake Bay to protect their sea turtles.
The wild and remote paradise of Drake Bay is famous around the world for its intense biodiversity. With the Corcovado National Park and the Isla del Caño marine reserve on its doorstep, the forests of Drake Bay are filled with monkeys, butterflies, insects and frogs, the skies filled with Scarlet Macaws, and the seas filled with whales and dolphins. But what it is less well known is that between July and December the beaches of Drake Bay also welcome hundreds of Olive Ridley sea turtles who come to nest each year. Since 2006, the Corcovado Foundation has been working with the local community to protect these turtles from the threat of illegal egg poaching, which had previously resulted in the loss of 85% of the nests. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of members of the community and teams of international volunteers, the Corcovado Foundation has saved over 90% of the nests laid since 2006, provided environmental education in local schools, created 20 local conservation jobs, and established the Turtle Tour for tourists visiting Drake Bay.
By coupling the income for local guides to the survival of the turtles, ecotourism holds the key for the sustainability of the program, and there are number of ways in which tourists can get involved and help the community of Drake Bay to conserve this precious natural resource. The Turtle Tour offers a special night patrol of the beach during for tourists, which includes a visit to the hatchery and the chance to witness a turtle nesting, watch a nest hatching, or release newborn baby turtles into the ocean. A daytime tour of the program is also available, and the two-day Turtle Festival that takes place on the first weekend of December is not to be missed. For the more adventurous of travelers, the program also offers short and long-term volunteering placements, which include training in how to work with sea turtles, a homestay experience option, and numerous daytime and nighttime activities. For those that can’t make it to the program there is also the option of adopting and naming a nesting turtle too.
The challenge that the program faces now is how to generate sufficient income from ecotourism alone to pay for the local payroll each year. The planned construction of a new program headquarters will provide a rent-free office for the community association, ACOTPRO, a permanent camp for volunteers, a community center and auditorium, and a tourist information venue from which to promote local ecotours and sell artisan products and merchandise for years to come. This base will permit the reduction of indirect costs to the extent that self-sufficiency of the program through ecotourism will become feasible. However, the program has raised only half of the funds required to complete the construction, and so donations are desperately needed in order to bring this next phase of the community development to fruition.
For more details about any of the above ecotour options or more information about how you can help the program, please visit www.corcovadofoundation.org, email email@example.com or call 8888 0745 (Drake Bay).
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