Earthwatch, the international environmental charity, today highlights its great success in local community involvement in the protection of turtles in light of the recently published WWF report, 'Money talks: Economic Aspects of Marine Turtle Use and Conservation'.
With the assistance of paying volunteers, Earthwatch-supported scientists are carrying out seven turtle research projects around the world. Their work not only forms an integral part in the turtle conservation initiative, but it is also dedicated to changing local attitudes towards wildlife, and engaging the community.
Nowhere has this been more evident than on the Parque Nacional Las Baulas (The Leatherbacks) beaches of Pacific Costa Rica where Dr. Frank Paladino (Indiana-Purdue University) and Dr. James Spotila (Drexel University) have been studying the leatherbacks since 1988. The pair would "rent" territory from the local egg-poachers who are now proud park guards and guides, and today virtually the entire community is invested in its leatherbacks.
Richard Reina (Monash University), another scientist on the project further commented, 'Local attitudes and awareness have improved immensely since we began working in Costa Rica. Our education programme through the local schools has fostered an understanding and appreciation for natural resources by the children. Local people are now appreciating that long-term survival and sustainability of natural resources including turtles, is far more desirable than the short-term exploitation without constraint.'
Further success came when Paladino supported the fight for new legislation in Costa Rica that would buffer and further protect Parque Nacional Las Baulas. More than 3,000 emails from Earthwatch volunteers and friends from around the world were received urging the Costa Rican government to ban any further development on this critical leatherback nesting beach. The Costa Rican president has not only followed the recommendation but has also temporarily extended its application to Costa Rica's other sea turtle nesting beaches until the legislation becomes law.
Paladino said, 'Without the support of Earthwatch over the past 15 years, I believe that the leatherback turtles would already be extinct in the Pacific.'
In the Gulf of California, Dr. Jeffrey Seminoff (Southwest Fisheries Science Centre, NOAA) relies on former turtle-poachers to help find and monitor black turtle populations and has reached more than 200 enthusiastic schoolchildren with his local classes on sea turtle conservation. On St. Croix, local people were so impressed with the dedication of Earthwatch volunteers on Sandy Point that they started patrolling the island's other beaches to protect nesting turtles from poachers.
If you are as passionate as we are about turtles, why not join the one of our projects, like Alison Leaf who recalls her first night in Costa Rica, 'On my Earthwatch expedition, as I waited at 3 am for my first 'delivery', lying in the sand, beneath velvet-dark sky, with only the sound of lapping Pacific waves, I felt a million miles away from home. The 'mother', a 3m-long leatherback turtle, had swum ashore on the Playa Grande, in dead of night, close to high tide, and then dragged herself up the beach in order to dig a nest above the water line. Here she would lay her 80-odd eggs in a flask-shape nest, skilfully dug with her hind flippers. She would rest a while, then before dawn lurch slowly back to the ocean and swim out into the depths.'
For more information on dates and prices, please call +44 (1865) 318831 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For price and dates visit www.earthwatch.org/europe.
Earthwatch turtle projects are:
- Green Turtles of Malaysia
- Hawksbill Turtles of the Great Barrier Reef
- Costa Rican Sea Turtle
- Hawksbill Turtles of Barbados
- Saving the Leatherback Turtle
- Sea Turtles of Baja
- Trinidad's Sea Turtles
For more information please contact:
Zoe Gamble, Press Officer, Earthwatch, on + 44 (0) 1865 318813 / email@example.com
Photo credit: ©Therese Khan/EWE