|We have recently applied for some additional funding to support this project. We estimate that it takes approximately $15 to protect one hatchling sea turtle, and for $600, you can protect an entire nest! If you would like to support Sea Turtle Conservation in Utila, please consider becoming a Member or making a Directed Donation - if you are local, please stop by the BICA office, or you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how to donate.|
Utila's beaches are home to the nesting sites of Hawksbill, Green, and Loggerhead Sea Turtles. The Green (Chelonia mydas) and the Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) are endangered, while the Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) is critically endangered. These Sea Turtles have roamed the oceans for over 90 million years, but now desperately need help. Pollution, poaching, and incidental drownings in fishing gear have contributed to rapid population depletion. BICA's Sea Turtle Conservation Program began in order to combat these problems and help replenish Sea Turtle population numbers. It was designed to cover data collection, the patrol and protection of nesting sites, and promotion of local environmental awareness through education and workshops.
BICA prioritized research and data collection in order to understand how to maximize its effectiveness. The length of crawls, curvature of carapaces, and species were recorded when Sea Turtles emerged from the water to create a nest. Later, data was taken from the nests to determine the number, size, and eventual fate of the eggs. With this information, a database was designed in order to track progress and share information both nationally and internationally.
Utila's Sea Turtles have faced threats from locals who covet their meat. In response to this danger, BICA's guards patrol the beaches in the morning and at night. Nesting sites are also monitored to keep the eggs from being stolen. While patrolling is costly and difficult, stamping out poaching is crucial to Sea Turtle survival. Recently two turtle poaches were apprehended by BICA's guards, ensuring their punishments and demonstrating to the community that Sea Turtle poaching will be dealt with severely.
In addition to keeping Sea Turtles and their nests safe, BICA regularly orchestrates beach cleanups. Garbage frequently washes ashore and poses a threat to Sea Turtles' ability to lay eggs. Grown Turtles frequently choke on plastic. Furthermore, trash inhibits hatchlings' faculty to reach the water.
Perhaps the most important part of BICA's Sea Turtle Conservation Program is its work with education and community involvement. In fostering a value of Sea Turtles, BICA can help to diminish the demand for Sea Turtle meat and thus curtail poaching. Through workshops with schools, fisherman, the municipality, and the police, the entire community has been involved in Sea Turtle conservation.
The Sea Turtle Conservation Program has been a resounding success. Through data collection, patrol and protection, and community education and involvement, BICA has done a tremendous amount to help replenish Sea Turtle numbers in 2011. It hopes not only to be able to continue its efficacy but to build upon it by using satellite tags, developing strategies, and covering more beaches.
BICA would like to thank the Iguana Station, ProTECTOR, and individual volunteers.