In the sea turtle conservation project in Estero Padre Ramos in Nicaragua, the hawksbill turtle eggs are brought to a safe place, hatched and the young turtles released into the sea. Volunteering and professionally supervised internships in biology, ecology, etc. are possible here.
This community-based conservation project of the Hawksbill Turtle is carried out in Estero Padre Ramos in the Northwest of Nicaragua in the Chinandega region.
60% of the whole nesting activities of the critically endangered, Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Turtle take place in 7 areas of the sparsely populated mangrove zones of Padre Ramos. According to the local population, 15 years ago, more than 10 nests per night could be found during the nesting season between April and September. Today, the total number of nests per season is estimated at 150-250.
The problem in Nicaragua is that the local population collects the eggs for food, or for sale on the market. Due to poverty, they depend on the eggs for nutrition, and on their sale for an income. In the rural and underdeveloped region, all income generation of the locals is through the exploitation of natural resources. In combination with low levels of education and no environmental awareness, this leads to destruction of the environment.
The government of Nicaragua banned the collection and trade of turtle eggs in 2005. This banning however didn't have any effect, as the trade of turtle eggs just shifted to the black market. This is because no alternatives were introduced to the local market as sources of nutrition and income.
The conservation project of Padre Ramos has the strategy of buying the eggs from the locals, to have them bred at a protected environment which is similar to a greenhouse, under ideal temperature conditions, and with the eggs being protected from possible pest infestation. In this way, since the start of the project in 2010, 90% of the eggs of the area have been saved. In 2010 and 2011 a total of 35575 Hawksbill turtle hatchlings were released into the ocean.
As the mangrove area is large, the project needs the help of the locals to spot nesting activities. Hundreds of locals patrol the area every night during the nesting season to spot egg-laying turtles. When they find one, they call the conservation project staff who rush to the place with a boat to relocate the eggs into the project's greenhouse. Within 5 hours after being laid, the eggs can be relocated without any problem. Locals who report nests are paid a similar price to when selling the eggs in the market. They participate primarily for financial reasons. The conservation project uses the slogan "From Poachers to Heroes".
For long-term success and sustainability of the project, the centre also works on the creation and implementation of options for alternative income-regeneration for the local population, and on environmental education. The plan is to generate income primarily through eco-tourism.
Short-time volunteering (1-8 weeks) is seen as part of eco-tourism and its program fees are a major source of funding for the project. Long-term volunteers and interns from relevant subject areas (minimum 2 months) are actively involved in the development of the project.
The "Finca Ecológica La Trinchera" has been built to accommodate foreign volunteers and interns, offering safe and clean single rooms with sanitary installations of good standard. Meals are provided at the village's only restaurant "La Enramada del Pescadito Frito". Finca and the restaurant are run by locals who have been trained in tourism service provision, hygiene and balanced nutrition.
Besides volunteering options, eco-tourists can enjoy interesting local tours, such as a boat ride on Estero Padre Ramos where many birds and wildlife can be spotted, visiting a local farm and learning how to make cheese, how to milk cows and how to bake traditional tortillas, horseback riding, Spanish language lessons, learning traditional fishing techniques, cooking lessons, kayaking, bike tours, visiting a small shrimps farm, and hiking on Mount El Tintal.
Short-time volunteering (1-8 weeks) is only possible during the nesting season between the 15th of April and the 15th of September. Anyone can participate, even without any related previous experiences. The income through short-time volunteers are a major source of funding for the entire project.
Long-term volunteering and internships (from 2 months) are for students and professionals of related subject areas such as biology, marine biology, geology, protected area management, tourism development, agriculture, development work, etc. These placements are also possible at months other than those of the nesting season, in agreement with the people in charge of the project, who will develop a participation plan for you.
The project cooperates with a marine turtle conservation project in neighbouring El Salvador. An interesting competition has been initiated to motivate the locals, giving prizes to the country that saves most eggs. It is possible to combine an internship at both countries.
Participants should be able to communicate in Spanish or English.
Location: Estero Padre Ramos, Nicaragua
Availability: All year, Start date flexible
Minimum Duration: 1 Week
Maximum Duration: 12 Months
Language Requirements: English
Further Languages Of Advantage: Spanish
Accommodation: Finca Ecológica La Trinchera
Supervision Possible: Yes
Qualification Of Supervisor: Biologist
Minimum Qualification Of Intern:
Further Contribution To Project: Yes, 100 USD per Month
Volunteering Possible: Yes
Required Qualification For Volunteer: None
Further Contribution To Project: See Price Scheme for Volunteering 1-8 weeks
Professional Conduct, Do you have the "right" attitude?