WildHope Digital Magazine Summer 2012 : Page 5

My first real wildlife conservation travel experience came when I decided to go to Latin America to volunteer after college. Volunteer with what, I wasn’t sure, but once I started searching for programs, I discovered that most of the conservation volunteer opportunities posted online at the time were with sea turtle projects in Costa Rica. I didn’t grow up a lifelong lover of sea turtles; I didn’t have a pet turtle, idolize Jacques Cousteau, or even watch the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on TV. But I became a sea turtle lover the first time I saw a giant leatherback haul itself up a quiet Pacific beach. Over the next two years, I found myself returning again and again to Costa Rica to work with the turtles. My first job in the conservation world cost me more in airfare than I made in five months of walking the beach protecting turtle eggs. At each turtle beach I visited, I saw the value of tourism to conservation work. Volunteer tourists patrolled long nesting beaches from dusk till dawn. Student groups helped provide critical funding for several projects I worked with. Tourism was also key to involving local residents in conservation; many of the programs I worked with hired former poachers as guides. Those early years of my career gave me hope for the future of leatherbacks and other endangered turtles. That hope is the reason my colleague Dr. Wallace J. Nichols and I founded SEE Turtles in 2008 and then expanded to SEEtheWILD in 2011. Our goal is to bring the benefits that tourism can offer to wildlife conservation programs and local communities around the world. WildHope Magazine is one of the ways we will be sharing stories of inspiring conservation efforts around the world and ways that travelers can participate. We hope you enjoy reading this inaugural issue. You’ll find tips on choosing a wildlife conservation vacation, news from our conservation partners, and information about upcoming travel opportunities. Our feature story shares a transformative experience with sea turtle con-servation at its finest, in one of the best places in the world for wildlife conservation travel, Baja California Sur. We hope it inspires you to plan your own adventure and help make a difference. LETTER FROM THE EDITOR Director & Co-Founder, SEE Turtles & SEEtheWILD Brad@SEEturtles.org photo : Neil Ever Osborne/SEE Turtles 5

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