Last year, Dr. Sarah Otterstrom of the non-profit organization Paso Pacifico made a commitment at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) to empower women and girls as environmental leaders in Central America. A year later, ten rural women, who typically bring in an average of $30 per month through activities such as selling bread and sewing clothes, are now the lead protectors of nesting sea turtles, earning money while they protect the environment.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, six of the seven species of marine turtles are listed as endangered or critically endangered, and the outlook is increasingly grim. In Nicaragua, Hawksbill, Leatherback, and Green sea turtle populations teeter on the edge of extinction. Paso Pacifico has employed locals, some former egg poachers, as wildlife rangers to protect nesting beaches.
The participating women in this new initiative earn money for every baby sea turtle they help to hatch which successfully enters the sea. The women protectors receive 35 cents per hatchling and each turtle nest has over ten dozen eggs. There are hundreds of turtles nesting on the beach each year.
"Nurturing baby sea turtles is very rewarding," sea turtle protector Carolina Coronado explains. "After a sea turtle nests at night, we carefully move the nests to a hatchery we have built and where we protect the nests from poachers and livestock. When the baby turtles hatch, we count them and feel fulfilled as we watch them crawl to the ocean."
The women in the project are working collaboratively. Rather than individually receiving funds for each protected sea turtle, they opted to pool the money they earn and equally distribute it across their group of sea turtle protectors.
A similar program is running in Indonesia. The Alliance for Tompotika Conservation / Aliansi Konservasi Tompotika pays local villagers to guard the eggs on island beaches.
Photo credit: cc: flickr.com/photos/avlxyz