Sea fair celebrates Nicaragua’s turtle conservation

Turtle hatcheries have proven to be an important means of successfully conserving rare leatherback and olive ridley turtles in Nicaragua and local people are celebrating the release of more hatchlings at the annual Turtle Fair in the western coastal town of Astillero on January 21.

“January 21 is significant as it is 45 days after the relocation of 50,000 olive ridley eggs to the community hatchery in Astillero – and 45 days is how long it usually takes for eggs to hatch. Our team hope that they can be released back to the wild this week,” said Alison Gunn, FFI’s Americas Regional Programme Manager.

The fair also aims to raise awareness and support for conservation, educating people about the need to stop poachers and to end the buying and eating of turtle eggs.

FFI researchers and local conservation teams protect leatherback and olive ridley turtle eggs on the beaches in hatcheries at Salamina, Juan Venado, Chacocente, and La Flor, the four most important nesting beaches on Nicaraua’s Pacific coast.

Local conservationists collect turtle eggs to take to the nearby hatcheries on the beach.

The hatcheries keep the eggs warm in sand and away from poachers, until the turtles have hatched. Conservationists then take the hatchlings back to the beach for release on the night that they hatch.

“The leatherback turtle has almost disappeared from our Pacific Coast and there are now only a few beaches where this species comes to nest. Nevertheless, we have recently recorded activity that shows that more leatherbacks are nesting this season,” said FFI’s Field Assistant, Perla Torres Gago at the Rio Escalante-Chacocente Wildlife Refuge near Astillero.

For example, 13 nests from two leatherback females have been protected at Chacocentre. Also at the Juan Venado site four leatherback nests have been found so far this year and the eggs have been taken to the local hatchery – they will be released into the sea when they hatch in early February. Each turtle nest contains approximately 100 eggs.

“This is encouraging news, but it also highlights the need to continue with our protection efforts-through using hatcheries. Our actions are helping to save this gigantic reptile,” concluded Torres.