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Make Money By Saving Baby Sea Turtles

Make Money By Saving Baby Sea Turtles
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“Possessing, selling, and consuming sea turtles is illegal in El Salvador,” states Enriqueta Ramirez in Spanish. “We are not interested in buying turtle eggs from you; we want to collaborate with you to protect sea turtles.” With these strong statements, Enriqueta is confronting a challenging history; a young female conservationist trying to change the paradigm of a male dominated culture of turtle egg exploitation.

Isaac & Enriqueta of ViVAZUL

Enriqueta’s audience is a group of about 50 turtle egg collectors, almost exclusively men, ranging from about 15 to 60 years of age. These men listen respectfully for the most part; its clear who is in charge of this meeting. The dynamic young leader of ViVAZUL, one of El Salvador’s leading turtle conservation organizations, controls the purse strings at this conservation project.

Her organization (the Spanish translation of “Live Blue”) works with professional egg collectors who bring the eggs that they find to three local hatcheries, where the eggs are protected until they hatch. The ‘tortugueros’ as they’re called, are paid for the number of eggs that they turn in.

ViVAZUL is among the most effective turtle organizations in the country. An initiative of Fabien Cousteau’s organization Plant A Fish, ViVAZUL has helped to save more than 400,000 hatchlings in its two years of existence. I have come to visit this olive ridley nesting beach in the small coastal village of Toluca on El Salvador’s central coast with Enriqueta to learn how turtle conservation is working in this small Central American country.

The sun sets over El Salvador's Pacific coast

Toluca is not a town you’ll find on the map. Few tourists come to see the turtles or relax on its sandy beach. The 40 families here live in small compounds stretched out along the coast, with walls of bamboo marking the property of each family. The town’s kids know how to enjoy the benefits of ocean front living, swimming playfully in the surf as a pastel sunset plays out over the coastal hills to the northwest.

Enriqueta first visited Toluca a decade ago as a young graduate student. Back then, before the sale of turtle eggs was banned, the most that conservationists could do was to request that egg collectors donate a dozen eggs per nest (roughly 10% of an average nest) to the hatchery. In February 2009, the government of El Salvador announced a veda (a ban on the consumption, sale, and possession of turtles, their eggs, and turtle products) in conjunction with a project funded by US Agency for International Development (USAID) to purchase turtle eggs from local residents who collect them.

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Photo credits: ViVAZUL / Plant A Fish

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124 comments

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7:09AM PDT on Jul 2, 2013

Good.

1:06AM PDT on Oct 3, 2012

Thank you for sharing this heartening article.

4:19PM PDT on Sep 30, 2012

A definite step in the right direction for turtles.

5:58AM PDT on Sep 30, 2012

I was taken aback by the title of this article, but pleased when I read it. Keep up the good work

8:09AM PDT on Sep 25, 2012

This is a step in the right direction.....

11:39PM PDT on Sep 19, 2012

thanks!

6:37AM PDT on Sep 19, 2012

thanks for sharing :)

2:55AM PDT on Sep 19, 2012

All must try best efforts to such a pity animals.

2:57AM PDT on Sep 18, 2012

fewer people would help more than any course of action. We are too many and too greedy on space and resources.

Kudos to all who fight for the sea turtles!!

4:09AM PDT on Sep 17, 2012

hunger is Now a very real threat to poor souls who would do almost anything! conservation is not an exclusive endeavor. we borrow the planet from our children's children.

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