Seaturtle Conservation and Environmental Education

 
$14,786
$5,214
Raised
Remaining
Dec 12, 2011

Turtle Season Update, 4 months of great outcomes!

The first four months of the 2011 season of the Sea Turtle Conservation Program at Drake Bay have witnessed numerous firsts. For the first time in the history of the program a Pacific Green turtle has been registered and tagged whilst nesting on Drake Beach, culminating in the successful relocation and incubation of several Pacific Green turtle nests in the hatchery. The timely completion of the hatchery this year – the biggest constructed to date – has also meant that 90% of the nests found on the beach have been safely relocated to the secure enclosure, reducing the incidence of nest poaching to an all-time low of just 3.4%. The affiliation of two of the most professional and efficient ex-poachers in the community to the team has also helped to reduce poaching, but moreover the program has gained extraordinary new insight and skills which have demonstrably transformed the capabilities of the conservation effort.
But it is not just the turtles that have benefitted from the improvements to the program this year. In addition to equipping over 50 international volunteers with new conservation skills, the program has certified four more members of the local association of conservationists (ACOTPRO) as fully-trained leaders, bringing the total number contracted by the program to 19. Furthermore, the brand new network of homestays established in the village this year has already provided bed and board for 25 international volunteers working at the program, distributing cash from conservation throughout the ACOTPRO community, and giving birth to some beautiful new friendships and cultural exchanges in the process.
The team of biologists at the program has been expanded this year to include four research assistants from the USA, Spain and Australia, permitting the dedication of individual project managers to the delivery of each of the program objectives. In concert with staff from the Corcovado Foundation, research assistants Matthew Adams and Álvaro Amo are implementing a program of environmental education in three local schools, and also run activities for two out-of-school kids groups, known as The Jaguars and The Pumas, who are busy preparing performances and handicrafts for the forthcoming Turtle Festival. Newly recruited research assistant Caitlin Sullivan is project managing the festival but is also chief hatchery manager, presiding over the liberation of 2600 baby turtles so far this season. Research Assistant Kira James is conducting an original piece of research, using funds from a grant that she won competitively from the University of California, which aims to uncover how attitudes towards nature and conservation differ between local residents inside and outside of ACOTPRO, and how such attitudes may have changed over the last six years as a result of the program.  Finally, efforts to promote the program this year, led by the coordinator Rob James, have resulted in a record 12 tourist night patrols and the adoption of 20 nesting turtles, raising over $3000 in donations for the program.
 
The extraordinary generosity of those who have donated money to the program, combined with the effort and determination of the members of ACOTPRO, the research team, and the international volunteers who donate their time and energy in the name of conservation, together continue to permit the recuperation of the population of endangered sea turtles that nest in Drake Bay. Through its interactions with the young people from the community, the program continues to disseminate knowledge about the natural environment, raise awareness of the plight of the sea turtles, and foster a new generation of locals with an awareness of the importance of conserving natural resources. Only time will tell whether this will ultimately be enough to save the sea turtles from extinction in the region.


 
environmental education in El Progreso School
environmental education in El Progreso School
Hatchlings making their first trip to the ocean
Hatchlings making their first trip to the ocean
Coordinator Rob James liberating first hatchling
Coordinator Rob James liberating first hatchling

Links:

Dec 12, 2011

Launching the 2011 turtle conservation season

Constructing the hatchery for the 2011 season
Constructing the hatchery for the 2011 season

In 2006 the Corcovado Foundation initiated the Sea Turtle Project at Playa Drake in response to an appeal from locals in Drake Bay regarding the rapid disappearance of the nesting Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivácea) population. The project was established with three areas of focus: a conservation program using standardized scientific methods to promote the long-term survival of the nesting population, by protecting the turtle eggs from illegal poaching and natural predation; an  environmental education program to increase awareness of the negative impact of the exploitation of natural resources; and a development program led by an association of trained local leaders (ACOTPRO) designed to foment sustainable socio-economic alternatives for the community through ecotourism and regular contracted work at the project. With around 45.000 hatchlings released into the Pacific in five years, the demonstrable success of the project so far has in part been due to the application of rigorous conservation methods on the beaches.  However, the real success story lies in the transformation of the mentality and economy of the local community. By pursuing a policy of clarity, transparency and respect, the program has succeeded in empowering local people and equipping them with the skills and infrastructure to take control of their own economic future.

Now facing its sixth season, the project has taken several steps forward this year with increased collaboration and integration with the community. Members of ACOTPRO now benefit from the project directly through regular contracted turns leading patrols or managing the hatchery, and they take on further control over other aspects of the project as partners, including the management of the annual turtle festival. Another very positive development is the utilization of homestays within the local community to house the international volunteers. This initiative has proved to be extremely popular with both volunteers and local families, and facilitates further distribution of income throughout the ACOTPRO community, which now includes members from surrounding villages outside of El Progreso and Agujitas. Local leaders continue to act as guides for tourist night patrols and the Corcovado Foundation is helping to endorse and establish an increasing number of local ecotours and facilitate their integration into the tourist industry in Drake Bay. Consistent with the increase in academic interest in ecotourism and sustainable development, the turtle project has also begun to attract an increasingly diverse spectrum of volunteers who make available their specialized skills and experience to develop the various aspects of the project. It is hoped that the next phase of the project will see the emergence of a more permanent research station managed by ACOTPRO, attracting researchers wishing to support local development initiatives or to investigate the myriad local flora and fauna, bringing benefits to the community all year round and not just during the turtle nesting season.

This new form income for the community is driven by turtle conservation and the sustainable use of local natural
resources, and the creation of new regular contracted jobs in the small rural village of El Progreso has transformed local attitudes towards conservation efforts in the region. Preparations for the 2011 season have already been catalysed by the efforts of an unprecedented number of local volunteers, and it seems that the residents of Drake Bay may have awoken to the dawn of a new sustainable economic future that celebrates the unique and precious
biodiversity with which they have been so generously endowed. 

The hatchery completed
The hatchery completed
ACOTPRO leaders training course
ACOTPRO leaders training course

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Organization

Project Leader

Alejandra Monge

Moravia,, San Jose Costa Rica

Where is this project located?

Map of Seaturtle Conservation and Environmental Education