Earthwatch, the international environmental charity, is looking for turtle lovers to join a proactive conservation initiative in the light of alarming new research.
The leatherback turtle has graced ocean waters from the tropics to the Arctic for more than 100 million years. However, they are now classified 'Critically Endangered' on the IUCN (World Conservation Union) Red List.
There are currently less than 3,000 reproductive females in the Pacific and the number of nesting females on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, and in Central America, has dropped from 91,000 in 1980 to a shocking 1,500 in 2004.
In February this year the 24th Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Conservation and Biology in Costa Rica, confirmed that destructive fishing practices and rampant poaching are threatening leatherbacks all over the world.
Dr. Jim Spotila (Drexel University), Earthwatch supported scientist on the Costa Rican Sea Turtles project, made this statement, 'The Pacific leatherbacks currently face an annual mortality rate of up to 30 percent. That rate is clearly unsustainable, and without dramatic intervention we can expect to see them disappear in a decade!'
The 1,000 experts who attended the Annual Symposium urged for careful management of nesting beaches and safer fishing techniques, which should reduce the unintentional 'by-catch' of sea turtles. There is room for optimism, but it will take an international effort and comprehensive ocean protection to prevent the Pacific leatherback's slide to extinction.
The long-term efforts of beach protection and nest relocation by volunteers on Earthwatch's Saving the Leatherback Turtle project in St.Croix has allowed the leatherback population to rebound significantly in the last seven years. It is our hope that the same can be achieved in Costa Rica.
If you are as passionate as we are, then why not join the Costa Rican Sea Turtles project and help us to fulfil our goals. As an Earthwatch volunteer, you will monitor nesting leatherbacks, measure and tag them, record nest positions, and count eggs to determine the factors that influence nesting success. You will relocate threatened nests to the hatchery, protect hatchlings as they scramble seaward, excavate nests to determine hatching success rates, and rescue stragglers.
Previous volunteer Alison Leaf recalls her first night on the project, '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.'
Earthwatch has seven turtle conservation projects currently underway all over the world, what better way to celebrate World Oceans Day on June 8th than to join in. 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.
For press information, interviews and images, please contact:
Zoe Gamble, Press Officer, on + 44 (0) 1865 318806/ email@example.com