Sea Turtle Conservation & Environmental Education

by Corcovado Foundation
Vetted

Greetings from the Corcovado Foundation! This year marks a very special moment in our history, as the community association that we have worked with for the last four years, ACOTPRO, takes the driving seat and assumes more control of coordinating the turtle project. Commensurate with the long-term goal of the program, the 2014 nesting season will see the alliance between the Foundation and ACOTPRO mature further, with the local community enthusiastically taking on much greater responsibility while still counting on solid support from a team of biologists provided by the Foundation.

In an exciting new set up, two coordinators from ACOTPRO will team up with two international biologists to ensure that local and volunteer-based activities run harmoniously. ACOTPRO will coordinate their homestay network, night patrols, community work and the construction of the hatchery, and international staff will recruit and coordinate volunteers, provide workshops and training, and assist with the management of the scientific investigation.

The bad news for 2014 is that no major grants were secured for the season, meaning that finances are extremely tight. The program currently only has one half of the funds required to pay for night patrol shifts to search for nesting turtles, meaning that the number of patrols will have to be drastically cut if additional funding is not found, and many turtles and nests may be left vulnerable to poaching. Moreover there is currently no money available to host the Sea Turtle Festival in Drake Bay, a popular annual event that brings local adults, children, businesses and tourists together to celebrate sea turtles and raise awareness about their plight.

 We are desperately appealing to donors to help us make up the shortfall in the budget and allow these important activities to take place. Unless an additional $8,000 can be found, the ability of the program to provide effective protection to the sea turtles of Drake Bay will be severely limited.

During 2013, very few sea turtles came to nest, and so we are expecting especially high numbers this year. We cannot afford to fail the sea turtles at this time, while the population remains in such perilous danger of extinction in the region.

For their part, ACOTPRO has been working tirelessly throughout the year to garner support for their community-led initiative, and have secured assistance from the Ministry of Environment and the Osa municipality. As the main fruit of their efforts, work is about to begin on the construction of a dedicated field station on Drake beach, which will include the turtle hatchery and a secure post from which field work can be coordinated. This will help to transform the experience of volunteers and local staff by improving logistics and providing essential facilities, such as water and cooking equipment, right on the beach.

The Corcovado Foundation will push on with its effort to raise awareness of the program and provide as much training, salaries, volunteers and logistical support as possible to the community of Drake Bay, but as a non-profit organization we cannot do it without the help of donors, such as yourself, who wish to do something to help to protect nature. What seems like a small amount of money back home can go a long way here, and the locals are matching every generous donation with their own selfless voluntary efforts in the field. So please, do whatever you can to help us protect this keystone endangered species, and let’s share the vision of a world in which future generations will also be able to enjoy sea turtles.

The turtles and the community in Drake Bay thank you for your wonderful generosity!

Emergency call for donations. 

Just four months remain before this endangered species returns to the region to nest, and there is currently no guarantee that they can be protected from the threat of poaching.

The community in Drake Bay urgently need support from private donors in order to mobilize their volunteer program, support their local guides and research assistants, and purchase vital conservation equipment and consumables.

In 2014, the program plans to continue transferring responsibility for the program to local hands, and equip the local team with all of the skills, knowledge and training to maintain the conservation effort in the future.

The villagers are so close to achieving their goal of a self-sufficient community-led program, and it would be such a waste to have to postpone this critical phase in their development until 2015.

For eight years the Corcovado Foundation has successfully secured funding to support the villagers in Drake Bay to protect their sea turtles. Starting from humble beginnings, this program has grown into a highly effective and professional community-led initiative that provides protection to 7km of pristine coastline.

The Foundation, alongside locals and international volunteers, with do their best to limit the damage done by poachers this year, but without dedicated funding it will be impossible to provide the level of protection needed by these turtles.

We are calling out to everyone who has ever visited Drake Bay or donated money to the program in the past, and to anyone else who wants to make a difference a help to save an endangered species: please pledge whatever you can to the plight of the sea turtles and make sure that we don’t lose the battle against egg poaching this year.

Local kids ready to perform at the Turtle Festival
Local kids ready to perform at the Turtle Festival

Greetings and a very happy new year from the Corcovado Foundation!

 

The Sea Turtle Program has been offered a wonderful opportunity to give a presentation at the Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation in New Orleans in April! This is a perfect moment to share our experiences, successes and struggles of the last eight years of working with the community of Drake Bay, as the Foundation prepares to hand over the conservation project to local control in 2014. The program has only once before presented at this prestigious international event, in 2010, when Research Assistant Alison Le-Garec gave a seminar in front of the world’s sea turtle experts in Goa, India, about the creation of the local association in the village of El Progreso. Now, four years on, and many stormy night patrols and training workshops later, the same association aims to manage the project for themselves in 2014. The path was not easy, and the dissemination of the lessons learned from this endeavor will be of great value to those wishing to adopt a similar model and empower other poor communities around the world.

 

Unfortunately, there is presently no funding for the Corcovado Foundation turtle program in 2014, and we must appeal to the selfless generosity of private donors to turn this opportunity into a reality. We must raise USD $1000 before the end of March in order for the Program Coordinator to be able to present the seminar at the symposium in New Orleans. If you wish to see other conservation programs around the world to emulate the community-led model that we have pursued in Drake Bay, please make a donation of whatever you can spare to allow us to share our experience. Thank you so much for your kind generosity at this important moment!

 

The Team

Accounting workshop
Accounting workshop

Greetings from the Corcovado Foundation Sea Turtle Conservation Program! Every turtle season is different, and 2013 has witnessed some big changes and some positive steps forward for the community of El Progreso. The program has welcomed more volunteers than ever to Drake Bay this year, up around 30% compared to 2012, and more volunteers are participating for four weeks or more. In order to increase support the local community conservation association, ACOTPRO, it is also now mandatory for all volunteers to spend at least a week in a homestay house, and most prefer to stay in their houses for the entirety of their stay. This has led to a dramatic increase in income for the houses in the homestay network, earning 60% more in just four months this year than they earned during the entire 2012 season! Nine local houses have now been established as ACOTPRO homestays, and families have begun to divide income from their households so that even more members can benefit. So far sixteen members have received income this year from housing volunteers, up from nine in 2012.

 

The story from the nesting turtles though is less positive, and the 2013 season has reminded everyone just how endangered the sea turtles are and how they are teetering on the brink of extinction in Drake Bay. During the period 01 July to 15 October 2013 just 72 turtles came to nest on Drake Beach. This is the lowest number of nests registered during this period in any season since 2006 and the hatchery sadly remains only half full. We all sincerely hope that this reduction in numbers is just part of a long-term cycle in nesting activity, and that the village will find lots more turtles nesting next year. One piece of very good news is that Drake Bay seems to be once again welcoming rare species to its nesting beaches. In 2011, 2012 and 2013, endangered Pacific Green turtles were found on Drake Beach and their nests incubated in the hatchery. This year, for the first time since in perhaps ten years, critically endangered Pacific Hawksbill turtles have laid nests on the beach! This came as a great shock to the team of locals and biologists since no one had actually witnessed the adult female nesting… it only became clear when hatchlings were being released from a nest on the beach that these beautiful little coffee-colored babies were very different from the normal gray Olive Ridley turtles that the team was used to (see photos!).

 

The turtle camp has received lots of special attention this season, as the new building continues to be improved and modified by the volunteers. New infrastructure built this year includes a spacious clothes-drying building, new paths and gardens, and a hydroponic allotment in which the volunteers have already begun to cultivate their own lettuce, basil, cilantro, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and onions.

 

The training program for ACOTPRO has increased in intensity, as the Corcovado Foundation attempts to provide the locals with all of the skills that they will need in order to run their own turtle conservation project and volunteer program in 2014. Activities have so far included a business plan exercise and formulation of the vision and mission of the organization, an accounting workshop, and a volunteer-led workshop to improve the ACOTPRO website, in order to make their program more attractive to international volunteers. The next phase includes workshops to assist with team planning, and the division of responsibilities between the ACOTPRO associates, the formulation of volunteer coordination protocols and tools, and the creation of their own training presentations and manuals. Efforts will continue into 2014 to provide support to ACOTPRO during this transition, while the Corcovado Foundation also starts to support additional communities in the Osa Peninsula.

 

From 2014 onwards the Corcovado Foundation plans to begin working with the Ministry of Environment (MINAET) to protect one of the most important sea turtle nesting beaches in the Osa: the beaches of the Río Oro National Wildlife Refuge. Plans are shaping up already so watch this space for more information, and let’s continue to save the turtles of the Osa and support the rural communities in their mission to develop sustainable ecotourism and protect their unique environment for future generations to enjoy.

 

The turtles and the community in Drake Bay and Río Oro thank you for your wonderful generosity!

Volunteers planting vegetables
Volunteers planting vegetables
The new hydroponic allotment
The new hydroponic allotment
Training ACOTPRO patrol leaders
Training ACOTPRO patrol leaders
Baby Hawksbill turtles!
Baby Hawksbill turtles!

The Corcovado Foundation Sea Turtle Conservation Program has never been busier. After seven years of protecting the turtles working alongside the local community, and raising awareness of the need to conserve the Osa Peninsula, the program is receiving more volunteers than ever. More members of the community have become involved with the program too, opening their doors to house the volunteers in ‘homestays’ in the village. The initiative has forged beautiful friendships and offers a wonderful vehicle for cultural exchange, with most volunteers ranking the homestay experience as the highlight of their trip to Costa Rica. Moreover, it has succeeded in generating extra income for locals through the sustainable use of their sea turtles, and has committed many more families to the aims of the program.

July marks the beginning of the nesting season for the Olive Ridley turtle in Costa Rica and so far the program has found three turtles in the last few nights! The construction of the hatchery has also been completed, with space for up to 120 nests, and the vigilance tower has undergone a complete restoration. Volunteers are currently working hard patrolling the beaches at night, and placing reference posts and removing trash during the day. In addition volunteers have been busy at the camp constructing and decorating a new office for the program, and will soon embark on building a new hydroponic vegetable patch at the camp, to try their hand at some sustainable agriculture. Other community project work has included building a new recycling sorting center and painting the Foundation’s education center in Drake Bay (Agujitas).

Training has begun to give local Patrol Leaders a refresher course ready to begin paid night patrols and shifts in the hatchery, and workshops will soon start to provide basic training to all members of the local conservationist association (ACOTPRO). Since 2013 will be the last season where the Foundation will be assisting ACOTPRO with the turtle program in Drake Bay, a series of workshops will begin shortly to link the association up with volunteer networks and improve their website, so that they can start to attract their own volunteers ready for 2014 and beyond.

All of the work so far this year was only made possible by generous donations made by local businesses, not-for-profit institutions, and concerned individuals like yourselves. Unfortunately the ongoing financial crisis has added extra pressure on donors in recent times, and the Foundation’s Environmental Education program in Drake Bay – which has been running for ten years – now faces closure unless extra funds can be found. This program encompasses the most important work that the Foundation does and it will have the biggest impact of all of its activities in the long run. Thanks to the free education that this program has integrated into the curriculum of local schools, a new generation of locals will grow up to take controls of local projects and tourism enterprises and see that they develop in a sustainable way, in harmony with the precious environment of the Osa Peninsula.

Please dig deep and give whatever you can to the program this season, and help us to permit the sustainable development of Drake Bay and protect its unique wildlife for future generations to enjoy.

The turtles and the community in Drake Bay thank you for your wonderful generosity!

 

Dr Rob James
Coordinator of Sea Turtle Conservation Program
Corcovado Foundation
Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
Email: robert@corcovadofoundation.org
Web: www.corcovadofoundation.org
Facebook: www.facebook.com/playadraketortugas
 
 

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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

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