A project of Paso Pacifico in conjunction with the partners and sponsors detailed below.
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Sea turtles throughout the world's oceans are endangered and species such as the leatherback and hawksbill turtles of the eastern Pacific are nearing extinction. Both critically endangered leatherbacks and hawksbills, as well as olive Ridley and Pacific green sea turtles nest along the Pacific beaches of southern Nicaragua. Since 2008, Paso Pacifico has been working with local community members to monitor and protect nesting sea turtles in southwestern Nicaragua.
Due to the pervasiveness of rural poverty and the traditional culture of sea turtle eggs as food, sea turtle nests left unprotected on the beaches of Nicaragua, will almost certainly be poached. Paso Pacifico employs a group of community-based sea turtle rangers to monitor and protect nesting sea turtles and act as ambassadors for the environment within their local communities.
La Flor Wildlife Refuge is a protected area located in southwestern Nicaragua, established to safeguard one of the region's most important arribada (mass nesting) beaches for the olive Ridley sea turtle. Along the more isolated of these beaches, where the Nicaraguan Ministry of the environment could not deploy their own rangers, we employ full-time rangers who work at a competitive wage and with benefits. For many of these rangers, this is their first formal employment, and several of them were formerly turtle poachers. In one year, Paso Pacifico's sea turtle conservation program protected 438 nests resulting in nearly 30,000 successfully hatched turtles. These nests were the first in the city of Ostional to survive turtle egg poachers and yield live offspring in 25 years.
However, egg poaching is not the only threat to nesting turtles in Nicaragua: there are high mortality rates among adult sea turtles caught in fishing gear as they gather to mate. Now, with support from the Danish International Cooperation Agency (DANIDA), our turtle rangers are satellite tagging turtles so that we can better understand the threats to sea turtles that nest in the La Flor Wildlife Refuge of southwestern Nicaragua, as part of our new Coastal-Marine Research Project. Launched in September 2011, this project is designed to contribute to the scientific understanding of sea turtle populations and marine ecology. Paso Pacifico's Coastal-Marine Research Project trains local marine biologists, maps reefs and turtle habitat, and ensures protection of newly discovered turtle nesting beaches, allowing more critically endangered sea turtles to safely nest than ever before.
As part of our Marine Turtle Conservation Program, we will satellite tag six green and hawksbill turtles and follow their movements over the next several months, so that we can identify their home ranges and determine the fisheries most likely to impact the conservation of sea turtles nesting in southwestern Nicaragua.
This project would not be possible without the support of MARENA, Nicaragua's environmental ministry. We have received technical support and collaboration from Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative (ICAPO), Randall Aurauz Programa Restauracion de Tortugas Marinas (PRETOMA), the World Wildlife Foundation, Jose Urteaga of Flora and Fauna International (FFI), and Cynthia Legueux and Cathi Campbell of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
The primary funder of our sea turtle conservation program is DANIDA, the Danish International Cooperation Agency. In addition to agency and foundation funding, support for our turtle conservation work comes from SEEturtles.org and Projects Plus Actions.