Sea turtles are truly prehistoric animals, they have been on earth for more than 220 million years and have survived severe climatic changes such as those that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. They can be found in all oceans of the world except the polar oceans.
For decades these, amazing aquatic animals have suffered due to hunting, over harvesting of their eggs, loss of nesting beaches and pollution. Fishing also poses a danger, too, with thousands of sea turtles accidentally caught in nets and other equipment every year. Of the seven-known species, six are critically endangered.
Every year thousands of turtles come ashore along the beaches of the south Pacific coast of Nicaragua to lay their eggs. The female turtles return to the beaches on which they were born to lay an average of 100 ping-pong ball shaped eggs into nest holes dug out of the sand. The beaches in this region are of global importance for nesting turtles, including endangered olive ridley turtles, and critically endangered Pacific leatherback and hawksbill turtles.
Sadly these turtles face some sinister threats at the hands of humans. These include the poaching of turtle eggs by marginalised local communities for income, which significantly threatens turtle populations in the region. Additionally, the prevalence of plastic bags on nesting beaches poses a risk, as these are known to be consumed by, and do harm to, turtles.
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) have pioneered a turtle conservation programme in the region to tackle these threats. These include community ranger patrols, establishing community hatcheries, awareness raising, and supporting local people to find sustainable sources of income, for example through the Weaving for Nature initiative.
Weaving for Nature was launched in 2007 and involves the formation of women's weaving groups, who collect plastic bags polluting beaches and weave them into products for sale, predominantly to tourists. The aim is to increase the household income of the participating women, thereby decreasing their incentive to poach turtle eggs, and at the same time to reduce the amount of plastic pollution on important turtle nesting beaches, to lower the risk of turtles consuming plastic bags.
The initiative has been promoted across a number of communities in the region. These communities were known to be poaching turtle eggs, including many of the weavers and their families. These sites also had high levels of plastic waste due to the wide use of plastic by a relatively large population (attracted to the area by the potential income from egg poaching), compounded by a lack of waste disposal facilities, which led to widespread discarding of plastic into the environment.
Weaving for Nature has successfully contributed to a wider programme of work that has improved turtle conservation. In particular, this initiative has provided families previously reliant on turtle poaching with sustainable livelihood options and changed attitudes towards turtle conservation.
During the 2017/18 nesting season, 100% of the nine leatherback turtle nests were protected from poaching in Chacocente, a globally important area for nesting sea turtles, resulting in the release of 137 leatherback hatchlings to sea, whereas 100% of all nests were poached prior to FFI's intervention.
The initiative has also successfully increased household income. It has helped to channel an average of US$100 extra per month back to each weaver, contributing a significant proportion of household income in a region where the average salary is estimated to be US$200 per month in a fishing household.
Furthermore, the women were a disadvantaged group within these marginalised communities; the initiative has brought them together so that they share a common purpose, and has boosted their sense of empowerment and motivation..
Sea turtles really are amazing animals
Sea turtles in captivity;
Many thousands of sea turtles are housed in poor quality conditions within aquariums and ocean parks across the world, forced to live within an unnatural environment and confined within small aquariums. Please only support establishments that have truly rescued sea turtles and have explored all available options to return these individuals back to the wild in which they belong. Do not support facilities that take sea turtles from the wild to display in aquariums
Sea turtle conservation;
The world is a dangerous place for sea turtles. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists six of the seven species as Critically Endangered, meaning they face an imminent risk of extinction.
Click here for more details on how you can help sea turtles in the wild
Fauna and Flora International
Sea Turtle Conservancy
Marine Conservation Society