Last week I returned from my second volunteer trip, this time to Guatemala where I helped with Olive Ridley conservation. Unfortunately in Guatemala it is legal to poach turtle eggs therefore the beaches are COMPLETELY filled with hundreds of poachers, some even on motorbikes and ATV's. I travelled with the NGO ARCAS who has two wildlife centers in Guatemala, one in Peten where they help rehabilitate animals caught being smuggled through the pet trade and one in the town of Hawaii (where I was). In Hawaii we patrolled the beaches everynight in hopes of finding our own turtle. Its like a race, whoever gets to the turtle first (volunteers or poachers) gets to keep the nest. Fortunately it is law that the poachers must give an egg donation of 20% of the nest however they only give twelve eggs out of approximate hundred. Once you get a nest or donation you can go back to the volunteer area where there is a hatchery and we bury the eggs. Out of the week I was there I got to see two nesting females (unfortunately the poacher was there before me) however we received our donation and re-buried the eggs. In about 50 days those babies should be hatching!! Fortunately I was able to release some babies that were buried 50 days ago. It was my first time seeing baby hatchlings so it was an awsome experience for me. They were so cute and ultra tiny!! It was nice to see them going to the sea however they must now make it past sharks, birds, pollution, plastic and fishing nets before becoming an adult. Again, just like the leatherbacks, only 1 out of 1000 will make it to adulthood. Lets hope when these babies come back to nest poaching will be illegal in Guatemala!!
For more info on the volunteer group ARCAS please visit: http://www.arcasguatemala.com/