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Aug 9, 2017

Leatherbacks, Greens and Hawksbills

volunteer collecting eggs
volunteer collecting eggs

In Pacuare we are so fortunate to have three different species of turtle nesting on out 7.1km area of beach.

From March until June, the majestic leatherbacks are present - a real treat for our volunteers and visiting students to be able to work and be in contact with the largest of all species, and classed as endangered. During the nesting season volunteers, research assistants and local guides saved 164 leatherback nests. 23 of those nests were relocated in styrophone boxes and 141 were buried in the hatchery. 

In July - although we witness the hatching of many baby leatherback turtles, up until now more than 2 000 hatchlings have been released! -   the beach is nesting area for the green turtles and the hawksbill turtles. 

So far we have relocated 26 greens nest in the hatchery and 6 hawksbills nests.

This time of the year is a lot more complicated for the staff , local guides and volunteers, as both of these species are hunted locally for their meat ( green turtle) and shell ( hawksbill turtle) as well as their eggs.

It is not uncommon for us to find evidence of turtles being dragged off of the beach into the surrounding vegetation, and flipped on their backs - making it impossible for them to escape - and the hunters will go back for them at a later time when there are no patrols about.

This is why we desperately need the assistance of the local authorities  on night patrols.

Once this season, we found a freshly butchered head of a hawksbill turtle, but no sign of the valuable shell or the rest of the carcass. The head was handed over to the coastguards, and arrests were made the very same day.

These are just some of the situations we find ourselves in night after night, whilst we continue our work to protect our turtle populations.

Global Giving donations have provided necessary support and materials for us to continue our work - including patrol kits for local guides, pit tagging equipment, new solar panels and necessary boat repairs.

Your support means that we can keep saving turtles, and takle on all the challenges that come with being a conservationist.

we are truly grateful for all of our supporters!

coastguards find a turtle targeted by hunters
coastguards find a turtle targeted by hunters
the hard work is worth it!
the hard work is worth it!

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May 11, 2017

The season has started!

Incubating eggs in styrofoam boxes
Incubating eggs in styrofoam boxes

Leatherback season has already started in the Caribbean coast, the females are coming to nest in Pacuare beach and a lot of threats come with them.

One of the biggest threats is the illegal egg trade, an illegal activity in Central and South America that we still exists in many countries around the world, like in Pacuare. That is why local assistants, international research assistants and national and international volunteers work together to stop the illegal egg trade to conserve this amazing species. Every one of them patrols during the night to find nesting females and take care of their eggs, which we relocate in a safe place to evade poachers and some predators.

The beginning of 2017´s season is going very well, we have saved lots of nests and we chose the strategy to relocate them in styrofoam coolers until we finish the hatchery. We chose this strategy because in Pacuare it is very difficult to keep in secret the place where we relocate them. That means that those eggs are susceptible to be poached. This method is harder than the others because we need to check the coolers constantly to keep similar conditions to the natural conditions, but the advantage is that we can take care of the coolers inside the station. We are waiting for the first hatchlings to be born under this method between April 30th and May 6th, and also at the same time we expect a natural (in situ) nest. We left that nest because the conditions were perfect to camouflage the nest and prevent it from being poached.

leatherback babies
leatherback babies
Feb 16, 2017

2017 season is around the corner

whats left of the beach in front of the hatchery.
whats left of the beach in front of the hatchery.

Its a well known fact - conservation is a constant uphill struggle: education and social awareness issues; lack of stakeholders; remote locations; limited funding; the list is endless.

For those of us invested in environmental conservation, this is part of the attraction. 

However , the end of 2016 threw us a curveball - and ontop of all the foreseen and expected problems, we had Hurricane Otto crashing into our coastline.

Although the staff were evacuated by the coastguards unharmed, and the station itself suffered minmal structural damage, the biggest loss has been to the natural nesting habitat of the sea turtles.

what used to be over 75 metres width of sand, has now neen reduced to just a couple of meters. The erosion continues , causing "cliffs" to be formed on the beach. 

Average leatherback turtles can be between 1m50cm and 1m80cm long. These huge, magnificent animals, struggle when they leave the comfort of the ocean, due to their size and weight.

Making their way slowly up the beach to look for the perfect spot to start digging her nest, she is going to be faced with a wall of sand. She will have no choice, but to turn around, and look for a more appropriate place.

The more appropriate places are becoming more scarce every year.

Our staff are now on site to prepare for this challenging season.

We need to find an area of the beach wide enough, and sheltered enough, to start the construction of the hatchery where the fragile eggs will be incubated. 

We need to make sure that the hatchery is safe from climatic events and further erosion. We also need a Plan B. If the erosion continues - where wil  we relocate the eggs? 

One innovative approach that was implemented in 2015 in extreme situations, was to use styrofoam boxes in order to maintain the optimum temperature of the nests for incubation. This provided an acceptable rate of eclosion for the eggs.

However , we still need help.

The purchase of enough boxes to be able to relocate all the nests is vital - and unforeseen. 

If you can continue to help our project, we can further develop tecniques that will enable us to continue protecting the turtles that nest on Pacuare beach, and to prepare and adapt to the changing environment. Each year we are seeing the impacts, and we need to be ready!

Thank you all for your support and help over the last few years.

emergency actions in the face of beach erosion
emergency actions in the face of beach erosion

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