WildHope Digital Magazine WildHope Fall 2012 : Page 28

FORGOTTEN TURTLES Photo: Brad Nahill/SEEtheWILD and more. The first sight of turtles came at the end of the day as the adult hawksbills were brought over from the hatchery. Underneath a canopy that provided shade and space for the research team, the turtles waited patiently as satellite transmitters, the most high-tech gear in the turtle biologist’s toolbox, were applied to their shells. Key to the research that proved these hawksbills prefer mangrove habitats, these transmitters are a valuable source of information for ICAPO and their partners. (Follow them online here.) This festival is one way ICAPO and their partners are working to educate local residents about the importance of protecting sea turtles. Following the event, we waited out a rainstorm and then headed back across the bay and from there by car back to San Salvador. After a brief nap at our hotel, we caught a two a.m. bus through Honduras to Nicaragua. An eight-hour bus ride later, we caught a taxi from the town of Chinandega to the small town of Padre Ramos, in the northwestern corner of Nicaragua. The Padre Ramos Estuary is similar to Jiquilisco in shape, layout, and the presence of intact mangroves, although these forests cover a much smaller area here (28,000 hectares compared to 150,000 in Jiquilisco). Here, the main organization working with hawksbills is José Urteaga’s organization, Fauna & Flora International, in part-nership with ICAPO and the Hawksbill Committee, made up of 18 local non-profit organizations, community groups, local governments, and others. After settling into my cabin, I took a walk out to the ocean and then around the mouth of the estuary 28 along the beach. The incongruous sound of mooing cattle echoed across the water. Tourism has barely touched Padre Ramos, as was evident from the curious looks the kids and even some adults cast my way. Though it was Nicaragua’s Rev-olution Day, most of the town was either watching a pick-up soccer game or swimming in the estuary. In Padre Ramos, as in Jiquilisco Bay, conservation takes many forms. The primary way these turtles are protected is by enlisting the help of local residents (known as careyeros from the Spanish name for hawksbill, carey) to bring the eggs laid in nests dispersed around the estuary to the hatcheries. The careyeros know these hawksbills better than anyone, but before this project was founded in 2010, the eggs mostly ended up for sale on the black market. Both here and in El Salvador, the careyeros are paid by conservation groups for their work, earning income for the number of eggs they bring as well as how many hatch (to encourage careful handling of the eggs). ICAPO and FFI have also launched an initiative to encourage competition between Padre Ramos and Jiquilisco Bay. The Copa Carey (Hawksbill Cup) uses the local love of soccer to encourage the participants to compete on a wide range of fac-tors, including the number of nests, the number of hatchlings that survive, and local participation. With the program now in its second year, Michael Liles has seen a change in attitudes among some careyeros. He explains, “By adding non-economic incentives like the Copa Carey to egg protection, we can begin to change the view of sea turtles away from purely economic terms.”

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