Sea Turtle Conservation & Environmental Education

by Corcovado Foundation
Vetted
Rivers flooded
Rivers flooded

 

Hurricane Otto, the first hurricane to make landfall in Costa Rica since records began, has been just one part of our troubles this month at our sea turtle project in Rio Oro.

In this tropical and remote location, our volunteers and coordinators generally enjoy the beauty of the Pacific Ocean, the green of the jungle and the blue of the sky. What we were not prepared for, was an unusually late monsoon season. On November 13th, a cloak of gray clouds descended upon us and soon, thunderstorms and rain cut off our communication with the outside world.

Our brave volunteers sat in wait for the rain to stop. Here in the Southern Pacific of Costa Rica, locals are always optimistic… “Pura Vida. The rain will stop soon.” Unfortunately for us and the turtles, this was not the case.

Our sea turtle project is located between two large rivers and in these heavy rains they had flooded to such an extent that no cars were able to enter nor leave. We were stranded. Volunteers passed the time playing board games by candlelight as we watched our food supplies dwindle. Thanks to the national emergency service, our community received a delivery by military truck. And many of our volunteers were able to return home. We thought the worst was over.

Then we heard the news. A tropical storm in the Caribbean Sea was headed for Costa Rica and it was rapidly forming into Hurricane Otto. At this point, we had to make a decision. Stay, or go. On the 22nd of November we decided to make a move.  It was the first time they had faced an evacuation and it was strangely exhilarating when we set off. That feeling was immediately erased when we saw the river Piro. Twenty meters of deep brown rushing water that we would have to cross on foot.

Step by step, we made it across. Our salvation waiting for us on the other side. A taxi! For the rest of the week our coordinators weathered the storm in Puerto Jimenez (the only large town in the Osa Peninsula) and our volunteers made it safely back to their home countries. What an adventure!

Now, as we return to our camp in Rio Oro, we are asking our followers and donors to help us rebuild our project for the coming month. Since the evacuation, only our long-term coordinators remain at the project and we desperately need your help to recommence our conservation work. Roads, rivers and homes remain flooded here and we are desperate to work on helping our community and our beloved sea turtles.

During the last 4 months, 2346 sea turtles have been registered in Rio Oro.  Our presence prevents egg poachers from stealing their eggs.  We have been walking the beach tirelessly 3 times a night during these months on a very limited budget!  Help us complete this effort and make it until the end of the season.  

 

Please give generously today to our Hurricane Otto appeal for donations. We thank you for your support and for all the messages we have received these past few weeks expressing your concern.

SOS! We need your help now!

Dear friend of the Corcovado Foundation,

I am reaching out to you because you have shown us that you care about our cause.  Either you have donated in the past, have volunteered in our programs or have stayed at the hostel/camp and learned about what we do.   This year has been an exceptionally difficult year for our turtle conservation program. 

This is our second year working at Rio Oro Wildlife Reserve.  We came to this remote spot of the Osa Peninsula because both the ministry of environment and the local communities asked for our support in protecting this incredibly important beach. There are more turtles on this beach than any of the other  beaches in the Costa Rican South Pacific…and poachers know it well. 

Last year we received help from another NGO who had a grant to work there and partnered with us to achieve this huge endeavor.  This NGO didn’t receive funding this year and therefore we are alone working on this precious beach.  

Our only source of funding is the turtle volunteer program and Globalgiving. And our expenses are huge!   We have to pay for the lodging, food, salaries and stipends of the biologists that relentlessly walk the beach every night to protect the turtles.  Because we need help financing the costs of transportation we have asked for the help of government authorities.   We also need their help in stopping the egg poachers who visit to this beach every day.  We haven’t received any support, even though this is a protected area and the responsibility of Costa Rican government.  We are working all alone.

If we don’t get help very soon, we won’t be able to maintain the program past October 15. We need to raise at least $9000 USD in order to stay in Río Oro until the end of the year.  In addition to monetary contributions we could use more volunteers.  We need more boots on the ground to protect this beach, especially in the next 3 months.

Anything can help, $10, $20 anything.   Please help us maintain this huge effort!  

Since our last update, we have made it to the end of the first month of our 2016 sea turtle conservation program in Rio Oro. Our move from Drake Bay to Rio Oro last year exceeded all of our expectations with an incredible 3000 nests logged. In fact, our data suggests that Rio Oro may be one of the most important beaches in the south Pacific of Costa Rica for solitary olive ridleys.

Due to this huge number of nesting turtles, the Corcovado Foundation needs your help more than ever to continue projecting these stunning creatures. To complete the season this year, we are seeking $10,000 from generous people like you. Conservation equipment such as turtle tags, data loggers and gloves need to be purchased, which really adds up when you are protecting thousands of nests!

The Corcovado Foundation is also committed to continue giving back to the community through our environmental programs. This means that we need your help in order to train local people in sea turtle conservation, pay for volunteer accommodation, local salaries and transportation.

This community-based conservation model proved to be extremely successful in our previous location of Drake Bay. By engaging with people who were poaching turtle eggs and offering them a viable economic alternative, we were able to reduce poaching from 90% of nests to just 10%. Even better than that, the Drake Bay locals are now running the project on their own.

In Rio Oro, we have found that most poachers are coming from further afield, but community engagement remains vital for a number of reasons. The Gulfo Dulce coast, extending from Puerto Jimenez and south to Corcovado National Park has a string of important nesting beaches. To the north of Rio Oro, the non-profit organization Osa Conservation is protecting two beaches. To the south, local group COTORCO manages Carate Beach.

By adding the Corcovado Foundation project in Rio Oro we can all work together to have a completely projected zone. By cooperating with other NGOs and local communities we can discourage poachers from coming to the area in the first place.

We hope to make our 2016 season as successful as last year, when volunteers and staff were able to protect 99.3% of all nests on the beach from poaching and predation. This adds up to tens of thousands of olive ridley and green turtle hatchlings! Since only 1 in 1000 eggs makes it to adulthood, every nest we save is vital to the future population of Pacific sea turtles.

Even a small donation will be a big help, so we thank you in advance for your generosity, as do all these cute little guys below!

As the 2016 sea turtle season rapidly approaches, our team has lots of exciting news for donors and volunteers alike. After ten years of sea turtle conservation in Drake Bay, we were able to achieve one of the most important goals of the program- handing over responsibility to the community.

Over the years, the Corcovado Foundation has focused on the employment and training of Drake Bay locals, looking forward to the day when they could run the program independently. This year, the community association ACOTPRO decided that it was time for them to take the reins and we couldn’t be more excited for them.

ACOTPRO now has 50 members trained in sea turtle conservation and 12 local families in the volunteer homestay network. They have developed their own website to recruit volunteers and they will be completely responsible for this in 2016 and beyond!

As for the Corcovado Foundation, after our first year patrolling in Rio Oro, we have plenty to keep us busy. The peaceful atmosphere of the accommodation at Hacienda Rio Oro was a huge hit with volunteers last year and in 2016 we are making it even better!

The upgrade includes a new rancho with plenty of space for hammocks, ping pong and one of the foundation’s favourite sports- volleyball! We will also be increasing the capacity of the camp to 30 with brand new “glamping” tents equipped with bunks, mosquito nets, balconies and shared ensuites.

We are also welcoming a new sea turtle conservation coordinator- Aida Garcìa Solà. Aida has worked both as a volunteer and assistant coordinator for the past 3 years and has a Masters in Oceanography and Marine Management. She has been a vital part of the team, with a rigorous approach to data collection and organization. In her new role, we know that she will make Rio Oro a huge success.

With all of the exciting changes to the sea turtle conservation program, 2015 was an expensive year for the foundation. Donors like you and grants from Pacsafe and The Rufford Foundation made it possible for us to have a record season with 196 volunteers and over 3000 nests. Unfortunately, we were not able to secure any grants for the 2016 program, making your support even more important.

We are hoping to raise at least $10,000 before the start of the sea turtle season in July and every single dollar donated will help. Whether the amount is large or small, your donation will go towards vital conservation equipment such as tags, gloves and data loggers. It will also help with essential running costs like transport and stipends for coordinators and research assistants.

As always, we will keep you updated with our progress throughout the year and we’ll be keeping an eye on our friends in Drake Bay too.

Thank you for your support!

one of the wonderful homestay families in ACOTPRO
one of the wonderful homestay families in ACOTPRO

Links:

A volunteer absorbing the nature of Rio Oro
A volunteer absorbing the nature of Rio Oro

In 2015, the program took on a whole new level of responsibility, as we headed to the pristine wilderness of the Rio Oro National Wildlife Refuge for the first time. We had been trying to raise funds to set up a project at this beach for many years, and thanks to donations from individuals like you (and major funding from Pacsafe and the Rufford Foudation) we were finally able to realize that dream in July 2015. What we found was a nesting site of undoubted major importance, but one that was visited not just by sea turtles but also a huge number of poachers. They were somewhat surprised to see us there as the beach had remained abandoned for many years and it was well known locally that Rio Oro was the place to go to take sea turtle eggs.

 

It is difficult to tell exactly how many nests they took before, but suffice to say about half of all the nests poached during the 2015 season were taken within the first three weeks. After that, the number rapidly dropped off as more and more poachers realized that we were there to stay, and so our presence functioned as a very efficient deterrent to the less determined of poachers.

 

In the end just 0.7% of nests were taken, which is a huge success (in Drake Bay around 10% are lost every year). The best part was just how many nests we found – over 3,000 were registered in six months, and some nights over 200 turtles would crawl from the sea in just a few hours! What a privilege to have worked there! Here are just a couple of the comments from the record 196 volunteers who came to work with us this year, many more can be found here: http://cfseaturtles.blogspot.com/

 

“The Corcovado Sea Turtle conservation program was a very unique experience filled with great people and great memories. It is gratifying to feel as if I have made a difference even though it made be small...every little bit helps. Meeting new people, observing turtles and making long lasting memories are things that I will never forget. I have only positive things to say about my turtle time in Drake Bay and Rio Oro.” - Ange Mariano

“My time at Rio Oro was magical. I can´t explain the beauty or tranquillity of the place. I saw vacant beaches and rainforests filled with turtles, toucans and anteaters.  I also formed friendships that will last a lifetime. The whole program is a must!” – Anonymous

 

“If technology was ever missed, it was soon forgotten by the magnitude of everything around you, and if anything it has begun to feel almost like a hindrance to experiencing real life. Would we had paid as much attention to the sound of the jungle had we been able to watch movies in our down time? Or been as impressed by the sheer volume of water that can suddenly erupt from the sky? This place has a wealth of intelligent, passionate people, scenes of sheer beauty that leave you in awe and 'things-to-do' that will inspire you and encourage you to reflect on more than just the superficial.” – Ada Poulsson

 

We couldn’t agree more, and we can’t wait to get started in Rio Oro again in July 2016. The program has lots more surprises in store too as we expand and diversify the activities we offer to volunteers. There is exciting news from Drake Bay as well, and so we will write again very soon to tell you all about it.

 

In the meantime we wish to thank you all so much for your extraordinary support and generosity this year, and we look forward to telling you all about our hopes and dreams for the 2016 season, and how we can convert your donation dollars into major conservation achievements and tangible socio-economic benefits for rural communities in the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica.

 

Images courtesy of the volunteers J

 

Thank you!

Volunteers at the turtle camp in Drake Bay
Volunteers at the turtle camp in Drake Bay
A baby Olive Ridley turtle on Rio Oro beach
A baby Olive Ridley turtle on Rio Oro beach
A volunteer with an Olive Ridley turtle at sunrise
A volunteer with an Olive Ridley turtle at sunrise
 

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Organization Information

Corcovado Foundation

Location: Moravia,, San Jose - Costa Rica
Website: http:/​/​www.corcovadofoundation.org
Project Leader:
Alejandra Monge
Moravia,, San Jose Costa Rica
2016 Year End Campaign
Time left to give
$19,214 raised of $30,000 goal
 
289 donations
$10,786 to go
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