By Brad Nahill
Conservation Trust grantee Brad Nahill, co-founder of SEE Turtles, is working to protect endangered sea turtles by growing the market for conservation travel to support small conservation programs around the world. SEE Turtles also connects volunteers to conservation projects and educates students both in the US and near key turtle nesting sites around Latin America.
The young students make their way out to the covered dock, smiling nervously to each other in their white tops and blue pants and skirts. Two boys eagerly volunteer to be crabs, their eyes lighting up at the chance to consume their classmates-turned-turtle-hatchlings. Pincers at the ready, the boys move sideways, tagging the kids who are pretending to be baby turtles making their way from the beach to the ocean.
Several “turtles” make it through the first pass, only to see the crabs become birds ready to pluck them off the water. After the next pass, just a couple of students are left facing the daunting task of eluding the boys, who are now playing sharks. Only a couple of hatchlings survive the gauntlet of predators to survive until adulthood.
Bringing the world of sea turtles to life for students near turtle hotspots has been a part of turtle conservation programs for decades. While a few larger conservation organizations have the resources to run full educational programs, most turtle groups have limited staff and resources, allowing them to make just a couple of visits per nesting season to local schools. To help fill this gap, SEE Turtles, in partnership with Salvadoran organizations ICAPO, EcoViva, and Asociación Mangle, is creating a program to make sea turtle education a year-round activity.
Sea turtles are found around the world, nesting, foraging, and migrating through the waters of more than 100 countries. Depending on where they live, they encounter many threats including consumption of their eggs and meat, use of their shells for handicrafts, entanglement in fishing gear, and coastal development. More....