Until six years ago, the reality in Drake Bay was not different to hundreds of other beaches where the sea turtle trade was considered a source of income. In the years prior to the implementation of this conservation program, the harvesting of eggs by local poachers resulted in the loss of over 85% of the nests laid in the area each year. The Olive Ridley population, the main species in this area, declined dramatically in Drake Bay to the point at which it became endangered, and the protection and recuperation of this population became essential due to its biological and ecological value.
There were several failed attempts to establish a sea turtle monitoring program at Drake Beach prior to 2006, mainly due to the low confidence of the local population regarding conservation initiatives in the area. The presence of foreigners, a fear of adopting new habits, and the enforcement of restrictions designed to protect natural resources that were previously exploited, brought about confrontation that took a long time to neutralize. In 2006, however, an urgent appeal was made to the Corcovado Foundation from locals in Drake Bay regarding the rapid disappearance of the turtle population, one which motivated the organization to reallocate resources and create a permanent program at Drake Beach. Three Field Coordinators were initially sent to initiate a conservation program designed to facilitate the recovery of the local population of nesting turtles after decades of egg poaching. The appointment of a Scientific Coordinator, with experience working on similar programs all over the world, brought about the standardization of methods and the implementation of field techniques necessary to study the population. The program was also able to take advantage of the combined knowledge and experience of the Field Coordinators, by selecting the very best ideas from other existing sea turtle programs around Latin America.
Where the Corcovado Foundation Sea Turtle Conservation Program differed from previous aborted initiatives in the region was through its recognition of the importance of achieving a balance between conservation objectives and local socioeconomic development. Conservation programs that focus solely on the biological aspects of the ecosystem are invariably doomed to failure, as conflicts arise continuously with the needs of the local population. By pursuing a policy of clarity, transparency and respect, and engagement with the local community from the outset, the program aims to empower local people and equip them with the prerequisite skills and infrastructure to take control of their own sustainable economic future, facilitated by the conservation of their natural resources.
The Corcovado Foundation Sea Turtle Conservation Program arose from the need to work toward the protection and preservation of sea turtles and their nesting beaches in Drake Bay. The project strategy was built around the creation of a viable socioeconomic alternative to consumption of sea turtles for the local communities, while promoting environmental conservation activities at the same time. The Corcovado Foundation aims to sensitize local communities about the importance of protecting and preserving sea turtles, coupling this protection with the opportunity to increase their incomes directly from contracted work at the conservation project and/or indirectly from the housing of volunteers in homestays, and the development of ecotourism initiatives in the area. In this way, it aims to achieve a reduction of the consumptive use of the sea turtles in Drake Bay through the preservation of this natural resource.
Areas of Work