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Sea Turtle Conservation & Environmental Education

by Corcovado Foundation
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Sea Turtle Conservation & Environmental Education
Sea Turtle Conservation & Environmental Education
Sea Turtle Conservation & Environmental Education
Sea Turtle Conservation & Environmental Education
Sea Turtle Conservation & Environmental Education
Sea Turtle Conservation & Environmental Education
Sea Turtle Conservation & Environmental Education
Sea Turtle Conservation & Environmental Education
Sea Turtle Conservation & Environmental Education
Sea Turtle Conservation & Environmental Education
Sea Turtle Conservation & Environmental Education
Sea Turtle Conservation & Environmental Education
Sea Turtle Conservation & Environmental Education
Sea Turtle Conservation & Environmental Education
Sea Turtle Conservation & Environmental Education

As the COVID-19 global pandemic continues to take human lives, the methods used in each country to protect the health of its citizens have also benefited wildlife and habitat. Unfortunately, there are also some unfortunate consequences for wildlife on the Osa Peninsula that are now coming into focus.

Sea turtles and their nests are easy prey for desperate people.  Without tourism, we have lost the dozens of volunteers who come each season to stand vigil with staff and volunteers from the Corcovado Foundation to protect the nesting sites from predators, including human poachers. Our volunteers are the lifeblood of our program. They not only provide the workforce needed to protect the beaches, but their financial contributions help us pay the salaries of biologists.  No one knows when our volunteers will be able to join us again, and so, our sea turtle populations are once again at considerable risk.

The COVID-19 shut down of Costa Rica also shut down tourism, leaving entire towns unemployed. With dwindling income for food and other essentials, even communities concerned about their surrounding natural resources are seeing their only options as hunting, gold panning, or logging.   Sadly, this desperate and destructive activity is happening all over the Osa, and tragically, inside Corcovado National Park. There, Park authorities find themselves facing off with large groups of gold miners and hunters that are once again invading the park.

So just as we were making significant progress, saving thousands of baby turtles, educating people about their importance, and how a sea turtle alive is much more valuable than a dead one, the virus set us back — financially and in the number of volunteers.

Life is challenging enough for these tiny hatchlings, first being able to survive in their eggs, undisturbed beneath the sand long enough to hatch. Then, they have to run the gauntlet of jaws and beaks of the mammals and seabirds who stand between them and the water.  Once in the ocean, they're on their own to face a new wave of marine predators, among them, more humans. People will destroy them with chemical and waste pollution, fishing nets, and the plastics that wound, strangle and kill at every stage of their lives.

You are the solution. We understand that the economic times are hard everywhere, we're asking for any donation you can make to help us hire residents of the Osa Peninsula to replace our volunteers now and over the next few months. We'll pay them to build the new hatcheries, and help guard them against the dramatic increase in egg poaching and aggressive predators. Your support will help us give people a way to make even a little money and lessen the need for them to depend on jungle meat and turtle eggs.  

If you would like to get more information about the situation we are facing, or if you think that you can help us in one way of the other, please do not hesitate to reach me at alejandra@corcovadofoundation.org.

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Managing Life in a COVID-19 World

As we consider the COVID-19 global pandemic, it is clear that we are all navigating uncharted waters. Our “new lives” distance us from our friends and extended families, disrupting every aspect of our regular schedules and a sense of personal freedom. We have had vacations, business trips, and meetings canceled. Sadly, almost every one of us will lose some income, possibly our jobs or even our businesses. We simply don’t know how this all plays out.

So, as we strive to keep our loved ones safe and hold on to some sense of normalcy in our lives, we all need to spread as much kindness as we possibly can.

I have faith that the measures taken by the Costa Rican, U.S. and Canadian governments, as well as others the world over, help flatten the curve by slowing the spread of the virus, thus reducing at least some of the strain on the world’s health systems. It may even buy us some critical time needed to develop a vaccine.

But like a devastating storm or earthquake, the aftermath of these measures will see entire towns and extended communities crushed by job and income loss. I can already see in the faces of small business owners in Drake Bay the agony of having to choose between taking whatever income they made this high season to reimburse people that had to cancel their trips, or using that money to keep their employees in their jobs to support their families. It is a scenario playing out in thousands of communities across the planet where people depend on tourism and other industries to survive.

In an effort to try to stay closer, motivated, and sane, the Corcovado Foundation will refocus our efforts to use our platforms and networks to support those who need us the most. Our objectives will shift to collecting goods and cleaning supplies for the most vulnerable population at the moment — the elderly people of Drake Bay.

We have served this community for over 20 years. With tourism being the main source of income in the areas around Drake Bay, the elderly will be among the first and hardest-hit victims of the COVID. We will, therefore, direct our talents, energy, and time to collect money and goods, then deliver food baskets and supplies to help lessen at least some of the health risks and economic damage facing the elderly.

But we expect the economy will be restored eventually and our people and people around the world will create new ways to do things. New paradigms. New perspectives.

There may even be a reassessment of priorities and values. Maybe we don’t need to fly 1000 miles for a meeting, or perhaps we’ll think twice about vacationing on one of those floating Petri dishes called cruises. Maybe we no longer shake hands. Other cultures have figured out other ways to greet each other.

But what we need to do right now is to make sure COVID-19 doesn’t bring out the worst in us as human beings. We need to believe in each other, to be tolerant, and empathetic given we don’t know what other people are going through.

And above all, we need to be kind, thinking about how we can help each other by using our gifts for the common good. There is a bright side in everything so let’s find it. For me, it’s having my children in our home for a while longer. Empty nesters everywhere are getting this opportunity to use the one thing we have all been given by this virus — time in our homes with our families.  

Let’s think of small ways to help the economy to keep running. If you can, get more take out, use delivery services, or do curbside pick-up at your favorite restaurants and shops. And please, let’s not buy all the Purell, wipes, or toilet paper. Other people need to stay clean too!  

And though right now, the most important thing we must do is to stay away from each other, that doesn’t mean to disconnect. As we are all in this together, let’s use our devices to hold on to our relationships and keep them thriving.

They say distance makes the heart grow fonder. Let’s prove it. Be positive. Keep the laughter going between us. If allowed in your community, meet up with each other and walk the neighborhoods and parks. Just stay 1.5 meters apart!

As always, we at the Corcovado Foundation are deeply appreciative of your support. There is a need now, so if you can, please help us provide some relief for the most vulnerable in the remote places of Costa Rica in this time of need. A $50 USD donation, or any amount made during the Little by Little Campaign to our Community Support Fund Program, will help us make bring some relief to those that need it the most.

Whatever the “new normal” is when we come out of this pandemic, we’ll remember that we got through it together because we chose to stand together in caring and kindness.

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Out reach efforts, kids visiting project in Rincon
Out reach efforts, kids visiting project in Rincon

The Osa Foundation, led by Jonathon Miller, began the Sea Turtle Conservation Project in 2001 at Rincon Beach, to protect the nesting population of sea turtles. Rincón de San Josecito Beach is an important nesting beach in the region where the species of Olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), Pacific Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas), and Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricate) are registered, the latter two being especially endangered.

The main objective of the project has always been to protect females and their nests, both from natural and human depredation, increasing in recent years. According to the article (A. D. Mazaris et all, 2017) Global sea turtle conservation successes: Sea turtles have historically suffered population declines, as a result of, bycatch and harvesting adults and eggs. However, over the last 10 years, individual sea turtle nesting sites show conservation success stories, with long-term increases in the abundance of females and their nest numbers, thanks to beach protection measures, strict fisheries bycatch regulations and the establishment of marine protected areas.

The Osa Foundation protected many nesting sea turtles and their nests for about 15 years, doing the brave job of resisting nest poachers and discouraging this practice. Unfortunately, in 2017, the Mama Carey project of Fundación Osa did not have enough funds to continue monitoring the beach, which included hiring locals and carrying out the nursery construction, so they reluctantly decided to stop monitoring and patrolling the beach. Nevertheless, conservation efforts in nesting beaches have proven crucial to improve the chances of sea turtles’ populations to recover, which is why that same year the Corcovado Foundation, started cooperating with the Osa Foundation to continue with this important effort in Playa Rincon.

During 2018 and 2019, the two foundations collaborated on the sea turtle conservation project, using Osa Foundation’s campsite and more staff was hired, and a considerable increase in the number of volunteers who supported the project was achieved. 2019 was a successful season: 

  • 118 nest nests were protected, making this season the highest in the history of Rincon.
  • We have also released 7722 turtles, and we still have lots of eggs to hatch.
  • We have managed to create a very good relationship with the Rincon community thanks to environmental education and a system of local guides that take tourists to see the turtles while they nest or when hatching.
  • More than 60 international volunteers actively collaborated in the sea turtle program, in the construction of the nursery, patrols, censuses, beach cleaning, environmental education, and nursery care.

In 2020, the Corcovado Foundation decided to move the camp from its original place at Fundacion Osa to a more easily accessible place, which will facilitate the operation on this beach and maintain conservation efforts for sea turtles. Key reasons include the need to have a more suitable dedicated space for hosting volunteers and a closer location to the road, to facilitate transportation of food and other goods.

The Corcovado Foundation will maintain the turtle conservation efforts during 2020 in Rincón Beach, while Fundacion Osa decides if they can restart their operation in 2021 and beyond. In the meantime, the main objective is to maintain the presence of the monitoring and patrolling groups on the beach to deter people from nearby towns from poaching the eggs, until somebody else, the community or the Osa Foundation takes over. Poachers avoid confrontation so the mear presence of people on the beach discourages them from visiting the beach.

In the meantime, we will also continue our environmental education, and community outreach activities to get more community members involved in the conservation efforts in the area. To hold the fort, starting this July 2020, we will need more volunteers and funding to pay for the costs of food, lodging, equipment and the salaries of biologists to work on the beach. Every little bit helps.

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Children after an educational activity
Children after an educational activity

We are almost through 2019, a full of plans, challenges and achievements. The end of the year always means a closing cycle and a rebirth of projects and dreams. Personally, this has been a year full of ups and downs as every other year, but it is a year that I am grateful for.

I feel very grateful for the trust of those who support us: our donors and volunteers, our board of advisors, our consultants and our board of directors. Particularly, I feel grateful for the wonderful team of our foundation that, despite all the difficulties, challenges and problems have been invincible. Their passion for the projects they lead has made them indomitable before the obstacles! Their love to the children, to the communities, to the ecosystems or to the national parks, or their commitment to excellence, I don't know ... I just know that my team members inspire me every day with their effort, their dedication and their creativity. Despite my 19 years working in the foundation, they make working in our organization always a new and exciting experience. Thanks to them our foundation is renewed every day!

I heard that: “A true act of goodwill always sparks another.” Here it is what we have achieved in 2019 thanks to your goodwill:

  • In the environmental education program, a contest was held in 7 schools, through which more than 1500 kg of recycling were collected. The schools were visited 42 times between March and October, to weigh the recycling materials. In addition, 22 companies in Drake Bay are committed to eliminating the consumption of single use plastic and almost 60 people have been trained on recycling. These companies have been able to collect 2398.63 kilos of recycled materials. In total, between companies and schools, almost 4000 kilos (8,800 pounds) of recycling have been collected during this year.
  • We have coordinated as part of the “Osa Libre de Plasticos” campaign with the Corcovado National Park and CATUOSA the cleaning of the beaches of the Corcovado National Park managing to collect, with the help of more than 100 volunteers, almost 2 tons (4,000 pounds) of solid waste in a single day.
  • 6 social education workshops have been held at Drake High School, working on the topics of sexual education and commercial sexual exploitation with the National Children's Board (PANI).
  • Together with the local association of Drake Bay, we formed a group of community leaders to bring travelling university programs and sports activities to the community. In addition, this group has focused on solving the lack of infrastructure for the Drake Bay high school.
  • An organic garden was built in the community of Banegas with 12 students from the school and several parents, which has had a great impact, since it promotes the culture of planting what we consume and allows children to eat organic products planted with their own hands.
  • More than 60 international volunteers have actively collaborated in the sea turtle program, in the construction of the nursery, patrols, censuses, beach cleaning, environmental education and nursery care.
  • We managed $256,000 USD (150 million colones) in infrastructure improvements in Protected Wild Areas. The funding was donated by Costa Rica Por Siempre and we lead the construction and remodeling projects in Rincon de la Vieja, Lomas Barbudal, Manzanillo, Alberto Manuel Brenes and Quetzales.
  • At the sea turtle project in Rincon de San Josecito, 118 nest nests have been protected, making this season the highest in the history of Rincon. We have also released 4,528 turtles, and we still have lots of eggs to hatch. We have managed to create a very good relationship with the Rincon community thanks to environmental education and a system of local guides that take tourists to see the turtles while they nest or when hatching.
  • In addition, 39 educational sessions in schools and colleges and 57 educational sessions with environmental groups have been held from February to November, for a total of 96 educational activities during the school year.
  • We had our first Jungle Party! Which was a great success! Everybody had a great time, and we also raised $ 12,000 USD that will go directly to educational and recreational activities for children of the Osa communities.
  • In addition, we finished the General Management Plan for the International Park of La Amistad, which implied a great coordination between the Pacific and the Caribbean sector, together with indigenous communities.
  • 110 people from 54 communities, in the buffer zone of 4 protected wild areas of Osa are being skilled as community park rangers. They will become the park ranger backup team for the conservation area. It is a unique model in the country, a study case that can be replicated in the other protected areas.
  • This year we managed to materialize through audiovisual production, two stories that were worth capturing on video. The first related to the testimonies of students graduated from the Environmental Education program, who told us how the program impacted their lives for good https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6ZbEsujKhY&t=58s and the other of the heroic work of the park rangers in Corcovado National Park https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03lr99b3WqE.

As we always say, our donors, volunteers and members are the driving force behind our environmental efforts. Thank you for trusting us, thank you for supporting us in one way or another. None of this would have been achieved without you. Please consider continuing to help us in 2020. You can make a tax-deductible donation, both in cash and in kind. Ask us how.

On behalf of all of us who from the Corcovado Foundation family, I extend my best wishes to you for a Christmas and holidays full of harmony and love with your loved ones and a new year full of prosperity, health and peace with our families, communities and the environment.

Wishing you the best,

 

Alejandra Monge

Corcovado Foundation

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Children playing educational games
Children playing educational games
Our seaturtle team during the Xmas Party
Our seaturtle team during the Xmas Party
Our team leading a trip to learn about compost
Our team leading a trip to learn about compost
Here we go to learn about worm composting
Here we go to learn about worm composting
Beach clean up
Beach clean up
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Kids how to move a nest to a nursery
Kids how to move a nest to a nursery

               Here at Mama Carey we are underway with peak nesting turtle season. With almost 100 nests, this season has already surpassed last year's numbers, and we're still expecting many more. In addition, we broke the project record for the amount of nests in one night with seven nests found and relocated safely to the hatchery, followed the next night by another six. Our first nests have begun to hatch with impressive success, and we have already released over 1,000 hatchlings into the sea.

               In addition to work on the beach, we have recently turned more focus onto community work here in Playa Rincon de San Josecito. Our volunteers helped with a renovation project at the local school that ended in a slip and slide and water throwing fight with the kids. We are also working to integrate community members into the turtle conservation effort by giving presentations about the endangered sea turtles that nest here, and what the project does to protect them. We also sat down with local guides to present them with the possibility of guiding turtle tours for tourists that visit the local hotels, which was met an inspiring dialogue about using this money to fund community projects. Two nights later there was already a guide on the beach with three tourists that watched our night patrol take data on a nesting turtle.

               Our volunteers have provided us with incredible support, not only helping on our night patrols, but also sharing in the camp's family atmosphere and experiencing special moments with us. One such moment was when the whole camp went running in their pajamas early one morning to go see a tapir up close. From protecting baby turtles in their crawl to the sea, to picking up trash washed up on the beach, or to helping make homemade gnocchi dinners, they are fundamental to the project.

Thank you for supporting our efforts and making possible our work. 

Ashleigh teaching kids about the nests
Ashleigh teaching kids about the nests

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Organization Information

Corcovado Foundation

Location: Moravia,, San Jose - Costa Rica
Website:
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Project Leader:
Alejandra Foundation
Moravia,, San Jose Costa Rica
$27,880 raised of $45,000 goal
 
415 donations
$17,120 to go
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