February & March Partner Update

We’re back with our first update of 2023. So far this year, we have provided new grants to our partners through our Billion Baby Turtles, Sea Turtles & Plastic programs. In total, we have provided $29,000 in 5 grants to turtle nesting beaches, one plastic cleanup program, and support for our Sea Turtle Inclusivity Fund recipients to attend the International Sea Turtle Symposium.

In March we participated in the International Sea Turtle Symposium in Cartagena Colombia. It was the first in-person international symposium since 2019 and it was great to meet many of our turtle friends, partners, and learn about many projects around the world. In collaboration with our partner Fundación Tortugas del Mar based in Colombia, we provided to all the participants with a map of shops that had committed to avoid any turtleshell product in their stores.

During the symposium we were very active: Our president, Brad Nahill, gave the keynote talk during the opening ceremony, co-chaired the Conservation, Management, and Policy session, and participated in a round table on the illegal wildlife trade. Our program director, Adriana Cortes gave a talk during the RETOMALA (Latin America Network) about all our SEE Turtles Programs; an oral presentation during the general meeting about our main programs and achievements of the past years as organization, and was also co-chair of the Nesting Biology session. Bethany had two oral presentations during the general meeting, one regarding the results of her master work and a second one about our Sea Turtle Week.


Turtle Love, Playa Tres, Costa Rica

Turtle Love runs a community-based conservation project working to protect sea turtles nesting at Playa Tres, the second most important nesting beach for green turtles in Costa Rica, in addition to supporting leatherback and hawksbill turtle nesting. With 241 patrols carried, 154 nests of green, 25 of leatherback and 6 of hawksbill turtles were relocated and the rest left in situ. Despite the team efforts, 31% of the nests in situ and 10% of the relocated nests were illegally taken. 

Photo: Turtle Love

During the season 2022, 1,085 nests of green turtles, 75 of leatherbacks and 27 of hawksbills and approximately 103,603 of green, 3,800 of hawksbills, and 3,069 leatherback hatchlings were protected in Playa Tres. With US $ 10,000 Billion Baby Turtles plans to support the protection of around 70,000 baby turtles this year over two grants. We would like to add that at the end of the season, last November, the field station of Turtle Love suffered a fire, resulting in the loss of all the equipment and the house. We provided additional support to replace some of the lost equipment.

Ocean Spirits, Grenada

Ocean Spirits was established in 1999 with the primary mission to conserve the marine environment and associated biodiversity via education, research, and community development. In collaboration with key stakeholders, Ocean Spirits leads conservation efforts for leatherback sea turtles, critically endangered hawksbill sea turtles, and endangered green sea turtles through preservation of nesting and foraging sites and alleviation of local threats and pressures. With US$6,000 we support this project and expect to protect at least 12,000 endangered baby hawksbill and baby leatherbacks. 

Photo: Kate Charles / Ocean Spirits


The Tetepare Descendants’ Association (TDA), Solomon Islands

The TDA have been conserving critically endangered leatherback turtles at two of the most important nesting beaches in the Solomon Islands since 2003. Prior to this all turtle eggs and any nesting females encountered on the beach were eaten and no hatchlings had been seen by any villagers under the age of 50. Even after the harvesting stopped, most eggs were either eaten by monitor lizards or washed out by waves, so now hatchlings only emerge from nests relocated to safe hatcheries.

Nesting beaches are now patrolled nightly during the main nesting season (Nov-Feb) and occasionally in the off-season(June-August) and trained villagers are paid an incentive of SBD $350 (US$35) for every relocated nest that hatches 60 days later. Many of these funds are typically provided by ecotourists to the remote communities but tourism has totally ceased (due to Covid19) for the past 2 years and turtle monitors have not been paid at all since June 2022. Billion Baby Turtles supported this project with US $2,000 from our Emergency Funds in order to continue their work and save approximately 500 hatchlings. 

PAMALi, Indonesia

Pamali Indonesia is a nonprofit organization working on sea turtle protection and conservation. PAMaLi Indonesia relocated nests that are located below the high tide and on the location high risk of disturbance from animals or humans. For hawksbill nests, all of them are relocated to the hatchery, because they are very vulnerable from predators. With US $4,000, we expect to help 20,000 baby turtles to reach the ocean. 

Photo: PAMaLi Indonesia

ProNatura, Yucatán, Mexico

For more than 30 years, ProNatura has protected 3 of the most important nesting beaches in the Yucatan Peninsula. Celestún in Yucatán and Holbox in Quintana Roo are some of the most important nesting beaches for hawksbills in Mexico. El Cuyo is the second most important nesting beach in the Peninsula for green turtles. In the 2022 season, it was observed an increase in the number of nests at the three nesting beaches. For all the 3 beaches they had a total of 3,990 hawksbill nests, 4,917 green turtles nests, and 3 leatherback nests; these totals saved an estimated 365,079 hawksbills, 499,133 greens, and 282 leatherback hatchlings.  With US $7,000 for this season, our funds are expected to help almost 20,000 baby turtles to get to the ocean. 


Costa Rican Alliance for Sea Turtle Conservation & Science (COASTS), Costa Rica

COASTS’ aim is to safeguard sea turtle populations and their habitat by collecting data on their activities, conducting nightly patrols to prevent poaching, engaging in environmental outreach, restoring habitat, and providing alternative income for the local communities. For this grant they are focusing on removing plastic from the mouth of the Rio Sixaola and adjacent stretch of beach during the sea turtle nesting season. They have started to remove plastic during the past two nesting seasons and have pulled a total of 2117 kg (more than 2 metric tonnes) of plastic. With a grant of US $5,000, we expect to support the plastic removal and increase the efficiency of the team with the help of the community. 

Coastal Oaxaca's Greatest Hits

By Jennifer Bonniwell, SEE Turtles Traveler

This weeklong visit to Oaxaca and its famous turtle nesting beaches was our first trip to the area and I think was a resounding success. The days were filled with beaches and waterfalls, while every night we walked the beaches releasing turtle hatchlings and finding nesting mother turtles. Each day had a different highlight — from finding a leatherback nest and releasing turtle hatchlings to visiting a rainforest waterfall and seeing a rare endemic bird during a walk near Escobilla beach. As I look back, it is hard to find a single theme for the trip—although we did see turtle hatchlings nearly everyday. So, maybe the theme can be coastal Oaxaca’s greatest hits, since we saw much of the best that Oaxaca’s beaches have to offer.

First, a little background on why this area of Oaxaca is so great for turtle visits. The heart is Escobilla beach, which is one of the largest turtle nesting in the world. Indeed, Escobilla has the world’s largest arribada, which means “arrival by sea” in Spanish. We don’t know why it happens or how the turtles decide on the timing, but thousands of mother turtles come ashore at the same time and lay eggs along the same stretch beach where they were born. In Escobilla, more than 300,000 mother turtles can lay eggs in nests during a single arribada. Arribadas happen about once per month beginning in June. This means there also is a steady stream of turtle hatchlings along this beach for much of the nesting season. 

Second, a note about how SEE Turtles trips try to leave as little impact on wildlife while putting as much as possible into supporting communities that are helping protect sea turtles. SEE Turtles trips help support turtles in two ways: first with direct funding to local partners to protect nesting beaches and conduct in-water research. For this trip, an estimated $700 pp goes to conservation efforts. Second, these trips prioritize spending money in local communities because residents are more likely to support protecting sea turtles if they see a tangible commercial benefit from ecotourism. On this trip, $9,500 was spent on tour costs in local accommodations, eating in local restaurants, and paying local staff including local guides for tourist activities.  

Barra de la Cruz — Turtles and Surfing

We started our trip at Barra de La Cruz, which is an 8 km stretch of beach about 80 miles from Escobilla. Though this beach doesn’t have arribada, it is a very important beach for nesting leatherbacks; they also study and protect three kinds of turtles: leatherbacks, olive ridleys, and black turtles. Due to the steady stream of nesting turtles, we were able to see nests each night as well as release hatchlings two of the three nights. 

The Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga research station at Barra de aa Cruz patrols the beach every night during the nesting season to find and protect nests before human poachers. Researchers collect eggs from every nest that is laid and move them to a hatchery at the top of the beach enclosed by fences. When the eggs hatch — 45-70 days later (depending on the species) — the biologists then release the hatchlings outside the fences to crawl into the ocean. The benefit of moving the nests into a hatchery is to protect them from illegal egg collecting and also that biologists can monitor the health and temperature of the nests. At Barra de la Cruz, the protected hatchery also has shade to keep the nests from getting too hot (a more recent obstacle to successful nests caused by rising global temperatures). In 2021, the station protected more than 330 nests, with a 67% rate of hatching.

On the first night, our team visited the hatchery first. We arrive to find two nests filled with wiggling hatchlings (kept in place with a circular pen) that we help release into the ocean. Our group gets to pick up, count and carry the hatchlings in a tray to the beach. It’s important for turtles to imprint on the beach by walking on their own to the water. There is no moon, so we use red-light headlamps to place the hatchlings a few feet from the surf and watch them crawl into the water. A few times the hatchlings were walking away from the water, so we picked them up to turn them the right way. We released more than 150 hatchlings the first night and another 30 the second night. 

After the excitement of the hatchling release, we walk the beach to look for nesting mother turtles. We all wear red head lamps, which don’t bother turtles as much as white lights. We walk and work closely with the biologists from the local station. Teresa Luna is the lead biologist and she accompanies our group on evening walks as well as our daytime trips. She has worked at Barra de la Cruz for about a year, and with marine turtles for more than 15 years, but is still just as excited as all of us when we find a nesting turtle or when we release hatchlings. When we find a leatherback nest — just the 6th nest by a leatherback this season (this was a down year for this beach)— she is smiling from ear to ear.

During one of the first nights, Teresa gives a presentation at the station to our group about the turtles that nest in Barra de la Cruz and the station’s work. The station has reported promising increases in nesting turtles in the past few years. However, Teresa emphasizes that turtles have an extremely long life span; hatchlings that are born today will not return to build nests for 15 to 20 years. This means that good results today are likely due to protections put in place in the 1990s and that hard work today will not show up until 2037 or later. 

Our group had the option to walk the beach all three nights. Most nights we walk 1-3 hours, depending on what we find and how tired everyone is. The first night we found a nesting green turtle crawling up the beach. She started digging a few times, but after 20 minutes or so decided to abandon the nesting and go back into the water. This happens occasionally, especially because the sand is too dry or something else about conditions doesn’t feel right to her.

Up to two people also could ride on an ATV along the beach instead of walking. The second night, the ATV finds a leatherback nest shortly after the mother has left. Leatherbacks are the largest turtle that nests at Barra de La Cruz and the nest is huge comparably—almost 10 feet across. While it’s very clear a nest is here, the exact location is hard to find because the mother turtle has tried to cover it by disrupting the sand. The nest will be about 3 feet below the surface, so the research team uses a 3-foot wooden pole to poke into the sand to find the nest pocket. The nest has 86 eggs, all of which are immediately removed to the hatchery to give the eggs a better chance at hatching. In 2021 they were able to protect 97% of the total nests.

On the final night in Barra de la Cruz, the ATV found the tracks of another nesting leatherback—the 7th of the season. This site was nearly at the end of the 8 km beach—much farther than the rest of the group to have walked that night. But two members of our group were on the ATV with the researcher and got to see the nest. 

During the days in Barra de La Cruz we visit some of the tourist sites. Barra de la Cruz is known for its strong surf — which is why turtles like it as well — which means that we cross paths with surfers almost as often as turtles. We see several places to rent or repair surfboards, and there is a bit more of a beach bum chic nightlife than we will get later in the trip. One day we visit and have lunch at an organic coconut farm, where the enterprising young owner makes her own soaps, lotion, and crafts from coconut. We even get to make our own soap from coconut oil and glycerin using the same method she does. 

Another day we drive to a waterfall in the mountains near where our local tour guide lives. It’s much cooler and in a rainforest zone, which is a nice change from the arid beach where we are staying. We also visit a coop near the waterfall where local farmers have banded together to sell organic and local products such as mezcal (a local specialty), honey, horchata, and tablecloths. 

Escobilla—The Famous Arribada Beach

The middle of our trip is in Escobilla, which is one of the most important and plentiful turtle nesting beaches in the world. In 2021, more than 1.7 million turtles nested along the 16 km beach. The beach is protected from commercial development, and the absence of a surfer community means the local community is extremely small. There is no cell service or Wifi and we see only a single other tour van of outsiders during our three days in Escobilla. 

We arrive Dec. 1. It is not during an arribada, which happens about once per month from July to February. However, there are still nesting turtles every night and thousands of hatchlings on the beach. Our first night, we walk the beach at sunset with buckets to help bring hatchlings that are far up the beach down closer to the water. Often the beach gets so crowded during an arribada that mother turtles will lay eggs far from the water along the scrub brush. Each of us gets buckets and it takes only a few minutes to collect 20-30 hatchlings each. Then we pour them into a line about 30 feet from the waves and watch them crawl into the surf. A few times, we scare away a Turkey vulture or a crab that tries to grab the new babies. But we can’t do anything about the pelicans that scoop another hatchling that had already made it to the water before getting eaten. It is estimated that only one in 1,000 hatchlings will live to adulthood.

On our first night in Escobilla, we visit with the leaders of the research center to learn about their work and the obstacles that face turtles in the area.  As we did in Barra de la Cruz, each night we walk the beach to look for nesting mothers. After sunset, the beach is so covered with hatchlings that we can hardly walk a few feet without seeing one cross in front of us. We witness two nesting on each of our two nightly walks. Because there are so many nests in Escobilla, it’s not possible for researchers to move eggs to a hatchery. Indeed, many nests are destroyed by other mother turtles who dig their new nest on top of a previous nest. At Escobilla, it’s estimated that just 17% of eggs successfully hatch. New hatchlings then face natural predators — shorebirds and crabs — that are plentiful along the shoreline.

Our 12-person tour group gets along really well, in part because we have such varied talents and interests. This is on full display during a morning birdwatching walk while we are staying at Escobilla. One of our tour members is an avid birder (with an excellent telescoping lens camera) and is able to help identify local birds and help translate our Spanish-speaking guide. About halfway through the walk, we stop in a shady dried-up riverbed for a light breakfast of papaya, “sopes” (small tortillas with tomato sauce and cheese), hibiscus juice, and sweetened coffee. 

Mazunte—Mexican Vacation

Our final two nights we leave the turtle nesting beaches to stay in the more popular and populated beach village of Mazunte. This is a popular seaside town with many restaurants, seaside beach resorts and touristy shops. Many Europeans, Canadians, and some expats fill the streets and sidewalk cafes. After a fruitful week at turtle nesting beaches, our group is happy to return to our relatively luxurious hotel that boasts WiFi, hot water, hammocks, and a pool. 

For our final days, we visit a local turtle aquarium and rehabilitation center, the Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga. This is a great way to see the grassroots efforts by community members to help study and support turtles. We also take a boat ride from a nearby beach and see dolphins, several olive ridley turtles (each swimming alone), and a humpback whale. We finish with a celebratory dinner at a local Moroccan restaurant. 

As you can see, this was truly a greatest hits of Oaxaca’s coast and turtle nesting beaches. But it also helped support these important beaches and communities.

2022 Year In Review

This has been a great year for saving sea turtles! With tremendous support from our donors, sponsors, schools and travelers, we have made a real difference for protecting these endangered animals around the world. We have protected more hatchlings than ever, created innovative new tools for addressing the illegal wildlife trade, and expanded our programs to address plastic pollution, support local communities, and rally support for these animals with Sea Turtle Week. Read on for more below and look out for our 2023 goals in early January.

Billion Baby Turtles:

This program supports important turtle nesting beaches around the world. We raise funds from sponsors, donors, students, and our conservation trips to provide critical support to community oriented projects across the globe. Learn more about Billion Baby Turtles here.

  • In 2022,  this program protected an estimated 3.2 million baby turtles. This is a 70% increase from 2021 and by far our biggest year to date.  We gave a total of 48 grants totaling US $273,000, These grants have supported the work in 60+ beaches in 19 different countries. 

  • From these 48 grants, 2 have been for the Emergency Fund program, 2 Survey Grants, 11 new BBT partners and 33 long-term supported partners.

  • With these grants, we have supported the salaries of 156 local residents, benefitting the coastal communities where sea turtles nest.

  • To date, we have provided more than 150 grants totaling over US $900,000 that has helped to save more than 9 million endangered turtle hatchlings at 60+ beaches in 23 countries.

  • This year we worked with several large brands to expand our support for turtle nesting beaches. Partnerships with Soda Stream, Joy Suds, and Next Earth, along with growth from partners like Loci Shoes and sustained support from long-term partners Nature’s Path and Endangered Species Chocolate have made this success possible.

Olive ridley hatchling from Mexico, courtesy Hal Brindley / TravelForWlidlife.com

Sea Turtles & Plastic:

We launched the Sea Turtles & Plastic program in late 2021 as a way to reduce plastic waste in sea turtle habitats and support local efforts to recycle that waste into useful products that support conservation efforts and local communities. Learn more about this program here.

  • In 2022, we funded four projects working to reduce plastic in sea turtle habitats. Those grants included: Eco Mayto (Mexico), Karumbe (Uruguay), Juara Turtle Project (Malaysia), and Fundacao Principe (Principe Island).

  • Through a partnership with Dots.Eco, we funded an additional 8 projects that conduct beach cleanups in 6 countries. These projects will collect an estimated 350,000 lbs of waste over the next year.

  • We took over management of the Travelers Against Plastic campaign and are growing this project to encourage reducing plastic waste in travel and daily life. We completed a website redesign, launched a monthly newsletter, and have grown the social media following to more than 5,000 people across three channels.

  • We launched our Sustainable Travel Sponsorships to increase support for plastic reduction and our other programs. We have added 12 new sponsors to the organization including leading operators Natural Habitat Adventures, Exodus Travels, Greenspot Travel, and others.

Eco Mayto Recycling Station. Photo courtesy Eco Mayto

Too Rare To Wear

The Too Rare To Wear campaign has been working to end the tortoiseshell trade since 2017. We provide tools, research, and funding to help partners around the world study and address this trade. Learn more about this program here.

  • We launched the SEE Shell App in March 2022 as the first app that uses machine learning to identify illegal tortoiseshell products. Working with partners around the world, we created the app, tested it in multiple locations, and got strong media coverage including in National Geographic. The app is between 90-93% accurate in telling which products are or are not tortoiseshell. To date, the app has been downloaded more than 1,000 times in 23 countries.

  • In connection with the app launch, we worked with partners in several countries to train government officials, local leaders and others, including:

    • Panama: Too Rare To Wear funded a two week-long series of workshops and visits on the hawksbill trade in Panama with our partners at the Leatherback Project, Fundacion Tortugas del Mar, and representatives of the Panamanian Ministry of the Environment and Navy. They completed tortoiseshell surveys in 6 shopping areas in and around Panama City, finding these products for sale in 5 sites. In addition, three high end jewelry shops in a prominent mall indicated that polleras (elaborate crowns made for special events) made from tortoiseshell could be made with an advance deposit. 

  • Colombia: We have continued our long-term support for and collaboration with Fundacion Tortugas del Mar to study and address the tortoiseshell trade along Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Their work over the past decade has helped to dramatically reduce the trade in the city of Cartagena, one of the top spots for this trade in the hemisphere. They conducted three workshops in Coveñas with more than 300 participants from the Colombian Army, national police department, and others. 

The foundation also conducted new tortoiseshell surveys in Cartagena and Santa Marta. A total of nearly 250 shops were visited in Cartagena, fortunately with just 4 shops selling these products (a steep decline from 10 years ago). In cooperation with local authorities, the Fundacion conducted enforcement surveys in the coastal cities of Cartagena, Coveñas, and Tolu. 134 pieces of hawksbill were found and confiscated at the San Felipe Castle, a well-known tourist spot in Cartagena. In addition, a total of 45 pieces of tortoiseshell were confiscated from shops in Tolu and another 19 in Coveñas, the first time this action has been taken in these two towns. 

  • Indonesia: Our partners Turtle Foundation and Yayasan Penyu Indonesia organized a workshop in the Central Sulawesi region. This activity was attended by 21 people from various stakeholders, including:  Natural Resources Conservation Center (BKSDA) in Central Sulawesi, Fish Quarantine and Quality Control Station (KIPM), Ministry of Marine and Fisheries Affairs, and others. In addition, Turtle Foundation & Yayasan Penyu Indonesia are conducting a large outreach campaign that will include advertising on tv, radio, and social media, creation of outreach materials including signage, shirts, and costumes to use for student education. Our funds will help to train local artisans in alternative materials to allow them to stop selling tortoiseshell, as well as business training.

Collaboration with WWF

Our collaboration with WWF Australia has been extremely fruitful, starting with their office sharing tortoiseshell images to train the machine learning model. Their staff provided input and helped to test the app in the early stages. The WWF Australia team has also connected us with other WWF offices including their Coral Triangle Program, the WWF Asia Pacific Counter-Illegal Wildlife Trade Hub and WWF Singapore amongst others.

Key components of this collaboration include:

  • SEE Shell is being showcased in a toolkit for the TRIPOD Project (Targeting Regional Investigations for Policing Opportunities & Development), which is a collaborative project of Freeland Foundation, WWF, and IFAW.

  • Highlighting SEE Shell as part of WWF’s ShellBank – Marine Turtle Traceability and Forensics Training workshops led by the Global Marine Turtle Conservation Lead (WWF-Coral Triangle Program). This is part of the TRIPOD project in partnership with WWF in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. A total of 30 participants from 10 law enforcement agencies from Sabah Malaysia have participated to date.

  • We worked with WWF to plan an event at the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES). The event showcased new technologies and tools to track the illegal sea turtle trade, including SEE Shell.

Sea Turtle Conservation Trips

We offer unique opportunities to see and work with sea turtles including Costa Rica, Mexico, Belize, Panama, the Galapagos, and elsewhere. To date, we have generated more than $1 million for conservation and local communities and taken more than 1,300 people to visit conservation projects. Learn more about our conservation trips here.

Highlights from 2022 Conservation Tours

  • We held 10 trips for a total of 77 travelers this year. These travelers generated more than $80,000 for conservation efforts and $40,000 for local communities. Our travelers also completed 270 volunteer shifts. Learn more about our conservation impact pricing.

  • We launched new trips this year to the Galapagos, Costa Rica, Oaxaca Mexico, and Panama, extending our impact to more communities and conservation partners.

Escobilla Beach, Oaxaca Mexico. Photo courtesy Tui DeRoy

Inclusivity Fund:

In 2021, we began our Sea Turtle Inclusivity Fund to invest in building the capacity of local residents, minorities, and underrepresented groups. We provide grants to support new field work positions as well as for leaders in communities near turtle hotspots. Learn more about this program.

In 2022 we gave a total of 4 grants in to young leaders in 4 different countries:

  • Busdar Marabatuan (Indonesia, 2022): Local Community Grant

  • Daneira Brown (Panama, 2022): Fieldwork Grant

  • Angelica Burgos (Venezuela, 2022): Fieldwork Grant

  • Henry John (Papua New Guinea, 2022): Local Community Grant

A total of  $10,517 was intended to create 3 new jobs (2 as ranger coordinators and one as a program coordinator) for local communities and to support 2 students to do their fieldwork working with marine turtles in order to get their degree as Biologists. 

Inclusivity Fund recipient Busdar Marabatuan. Photo courtesy PAMALI.

Sea Turtle Week

Sea Turtle Week is a week-long celebration of sea turtles around the world started in 2019. The event takes place each June, between June 8th (World Oceans Day) and June 16th (World Sea Turtle Day). Learn more about this program here.

  • We had 13 new partners join the campaign in 2022, bringing our total to 171 conservation partners in 45 countries around the world who participate in Sea Turtle Week events.

  • Sea Turtle Week content reached 8.1 million viewers from around the world. 

  • More than 6,500 users visited SeaTurtleWeek.com to view our online resources.

  • We had on the ground partner visits with Loggerhead Marinelife Center and Inwater Research, where we posted live daily content about the work they do.

  • We grew our Sea Turtle Week social media followers to 9,000+ user across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. More than 2,500 posts were created online using the hashtag #SeaTurtleWeek. We saw 110,000k interactions on our online posts.

Billion Baby Turtles September & October Update

Over the last two months, our Billion Baby Turtles program provided 10 grants totaling US $35,000 to partners in four countries. These grants will help save more than a million hatchlings of ridleys, green, leatherbacks and hawksbill turtles. This brings the total for 2022 to 53 grants totaling $273,000, protecting an estimated 3 million baby turtles!

Universidad Michoacana, Michoacán, Mexico


Since 2013 SEE Turtles has supported this project located on the coast of Michoacán, Mexico. Colola is the most important beach for nesting black turtles, which are a different morphotype of green turtles in this area (very dark skin and different shape and color of carapace). The population of black turtles has been monitored systematically since 1981, from that date, the population declined dangerously 1980-1999 (between 100 and 500 nesting females). However, since 2000 the number of female black turtles has been increasing significantly and in this past season (2021) was a record with the highest nesting season ever recorded with more than 72,000 nests and an estimated 4,435,200 hatchlings. With US$ 10,000 Billion Baby Turtles helped to protect more than 750,000 baby black turtles!

Photo: Juan Ma Contortrix


This natural protected beach is one of the most important nesting sites for the leatherback turtle in Mexico. In the 1980s, Mexiquillo represented the most important nesting site of this species in the Pacific basin. However, the population of the Pacific leatherback has dramatically declined ever since. During the nesting season 2021-22, 92 leatherback nests were reported, from these 92 nests 4,504 leatherback hatchlings were protected and helped to get to the ocean. With US$ 5,000 SEE Turtles helped to protect almost 1,500 baby turtles.


Guanacaste Dry Forest, Nancite, Costa Rica

Playa Nancite is the second most important nesting site for olive ridley sea turtles in Costa Rica. The arribadas of these turtles generally result in between 20,000 and 116,000 nests each year. Green turtles also nest at Nancite beach, but in much smaller numbers (between 20 and 65 nests per year). Turtle biologist Luis Fonseca has been studying the sea turtles of this area for more than a decade. His sea turtle monitoring project is integral to understanding population trends over time and in designing management and conservation actions that promote the recovery of sea turtle populations in this part of Costa Rica. He has also expanded his research to cover the prey/predator phenomenon between nesting sea turtles and jaguar population at Nancite beach, the first beach where such interactions have been extensively documented. Fonseca’s research has shown that the number of turtles eaten by jaguars has little effect on the overall population of olive ridleys and that the turtles are an important food source for animals of higher trophic level, such as jaguars, crocodiles, mountain lions, and birds. With a second grant this year of US$ 2,000 SEE Turtles supported the protection of 285,000 baby turtles. 


Kutzari, Guerrero, Mexico

Kutzari has worked since 2003 in the protection of leatherback turtles on the Pacific coast of Mexico. In partnership with SEE Turtles they are supporting the protection of leatherback nests in secondary beaches (“Priority 2 beaches”) in the Mexican Pacific. These beaches are patrolled by different local community groups interested in the protection of sea turtles, but their efforts are intermittent since they have not been able to secure consistent funding. With the financial support and technical advisory on part of Kutzari’s biologists, these groups are now focused on the protection of nesting leatherback in these beaches. Although not as numerous as index beaches, they are significant given the critical condition of the population. With US$ 3,000 Billion Baby turtles help to protect more than 1,100 baby leatherbacks.


Equipo Tora Carey, El Jobo, Costa Rica

Equipo Tora Carey (ETC) was created as the result of a successful cooperation between fishermen, local tourism operators, and biologists in protecting sea turtles around Punta Descartes in 2015. In the present, local residents patrol 5 different beaches every night. SEE Turtles has partnered with ETC since 2018, they protect around 250 nests of olive ridley, black, and sporadic hawksbill nests. With US$ 2,000 this season, Billion Baby Turtles support the protection of around 2,500 baby turtles. 

Photo: Equipo Tora Carey


COBEC, Marereni Seascape, Kenya

This project seeks to support the local effort on Marereni seascape, especially in the established locally managed marine area. This project aims to protect sea turtles and their habitats, both in the waters and on the beach by facilitating and enhancing local residents to patrol and protect the nests. COBEC is trying to find alternatives to illegally taken eggs for the local communities. With US$ 3,000 Billion Baby Turtles supported this project to protect almost 2,500 hatchlings.  


Campamento Tortuguero Mayto, Jalisco, Mexico (Emergency Fund Grant)

Focused on the protection of a sea turtle nesting  beach on the Pacific coast of Mexico, Mayto integrates environmental education and  community-based conservation efforts into a program that ensures the  safeguarding of sea turtle nests and hatchlings through volunteering programs  (nationally and internationally) as well as educational stays for high school and  university groups. Every year they protect between 1,200 and 1,500 nests (mostly olive ridleys and sporadic leatherbacks and hawksbills) and more than 70,000 hatchlings. Mayto was severely affected by Hurricane Kay since September 4th, 2022 with a loss of more than 70% of its facilities and significant damages to their hatchery. SEE Turtles supported this project with US $2,500 to match donations to rebuild part of their lost facilities affected by the hurricane.

Sea Turtles Forever, Punta Pargos, Costa Rica

This project started in 2002 and has been a SEE Turtles partner since 2012. This project was developed to stop the illegal harvest of threatened and endangered marine turtles that has been taking place for decades. By running nightly protection and monitoring patrols they have managed to curtail illegal harvest of marine turtles and their eggs by 95%. With US$ 2,000 our Billion Baby Turtles program is helping them to protect more than 1,000 baby turtles.


Palmarito, Oaxaca, Mexico (New Partner)

The Palmarito Project has been operating since 2005, a nesting beach for leatherback black and olive ridley turtles, located on the route migration of sea turtles and the most important nesting area in the Mexican Pacific. Last season they protected 1,163 baby leatherbacks, 8,735 green and 40,076 baby ridleys. Billion Baby Turtles supported this new partner with US$ 5,000 helping to save more than 7,000 baby turtles. 

Cleaning Turtle Habitats Around the World with Our Sponsor Dots.Eco

We’re excited to be working with Dots.Eco, a company that offers environmental incentives for games and other apps. Through our collaboration, Dots.Eco is helping to fund cleanup of an estimated 350,000 lbs of plastic waste from sea turtle nesting beaches and foraging areas in seven countries in coordination with eight of our Sea Turtles & Plastic partners! Learn more about our collaboration with Dots.Eco here.

The funding will support the following efforts:

Paso Pacifico

Paso Pacifico works with communities and local organizations to clean plastic from turtle nesting beaches along the country’s Pacific coast.

Location: Nicaragua

Total estimated plastic collected: 25,000 lbs

Photo: Paso Pacifico


Karumbe is a community-based project that is working with Plastic Free Sea Turtles to reduce plastic pollution in the bay at the mouth of the Rio de la Plata, one of the worst areas for sea turtles consuming plastic in the world.

Location: Uruguay

Total estimated plastic collected: 50,000 lbs

Our World, Our Sea

Beach clean ups will be done along twelve community beaches and three fish landing sites. They also perform sensitization in local communities and schools to increase awareness on the need for sea turtle conservation.

Location: Ghana

Total estimated plastic collected: 56,000 lbs

Latin American Sea Turtles (LAST)

LAST works to protect sea turtles at projects on both of Costa RIca’s coasts. These funds will help conduct monthly cleanups at their project sites on the Osa Peninsula, Pacuare Beach, and Moin.

Location: Costa Rica

Total estimated plastic collected: 125,000 lbs

Photo: Latin American Sea Turtles

Palawan Biodiversity Conservation Advocates

Palawan Biodiversity organizes one clean-up a month in different barangays or villages in Puerto Princesa City.

Location: Philippines

Total estimated plastic collected: 21,000 lbs


The Community empowerment and outreach project that seeks to protect and conserve sea turtles and their habitat in Marereni seascape, has a component on ocean plastic waste collection and recycling. More than 30 locals have benefited directly whereas over 300 individuals indirectly from the project in terms of monies that come from the recycled artifacts. 

Location: Kenya

Total estimated plastic collected: 22,000 lbs

Photo: COBEC

Turtle Love 

Turtle Love runs a community-based conservation project working to protect sea turtles nesting at Playa Tres, the 6-km stretch of beach immediately south of Tortuguero National Park. Tortuguero National Park.

Location: Costa Rica

Total estimated plastic collected: 30,000 lbs

Bahari Hai

In 2021 a group of community members came together with a common desire to make a difference in their own environment and to do so with an organization built upon a solid foundation of good governance and strong leadership. The target area is Kanani area (Watamu to Malindi), in the north coast of Kenya. This area was chosen because this section of coastline which accumulates a lot of waste due to the Kuzi monsoon.

Location: Kenya

Total estimated plastic collected: 23,000 lbs

Billion Baby Turtles August Update

Last month, our Billion Baby Turtles program provided 4 grants totaling US $15,000 to partners in four countries. These grants will help save an estimated 6,800 hatchlings of leatherbacks, hawksbills, and green turtles. This brings out total for 2022 to 43 grants totaling $238,000, protecting an estimated 2.3 million baby turtles!

Chelonia, Playa Grande, Puerto Rico

Chelonia oversees monitoring the nesting seasons of the leatherback turtles in Playa Grande El Paraíso during the past ten years. The Chelonia team is made up of volunteers under the guidance of the staff of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER). This Organization train people to carry out an action plan that benefits the conservation and scientific community. They protect around 370 nests and more than 22,000 hatchlings of leatherbacks every year. Billion Baby Turtles supported this new partner with US$ 3,000 for this season, helping to save an estimated 3,700 hatchlings.

Ashanti Conservation Initiative, Ghana (New Partner)

This is a new project born in 2021 due to the covid-19 outbreak that disrupted the conservation sector in Ghana, especially with income losses and reduced survey and monitoring activities. This project seeks to increase the awareness and empower of local communities and support the rehabilitation of key marine turtles nesting sites in the Western region of Ghana. The project ensures full participation of local communities and the information gathered will provide valuable insight into the relative abundance per species, and an indication of threats encountered by sea turtles visiting nesting sites. With US $3,000, Billion Baby Turtles support this to protect olive ridleys, green, and leatherback nesting turtles, saving an estimated 1,000 hatchlings, out of about 15,000 hatchlings in total.

Fauna & Flora International. Estero Padre Ramos & Aserradores, Nicaragua

The Pacific Coast of Nicaragua hosts globally important nesting beaches for critically endangered hawksbill turtles. They are threatened by illegal harvesting and trade of eggs and shells, fishing practices, and the degradation of coastal habitats. FFI and its partners in Nicaragua have over 20 years of experience in halting illegal collection, building local capacity to monitor and protect nests, and generating local and national awareness to protect turtles and counter leading threats. So far, they have protected 2,582 nests, released 230,038 hatchlings, and reduced poaching rates to less than 5%. SEE Turtles funds supported this organization with US$ 5,000 to enhance community engagements, effective patrols, and protection of nests, helping to save an estimated 1,100 hatchlings.

Photo: Nick Bubb, FFI

Conflict Islands Conservation Initiative, Conflict Island Atoll, Papua New Guinea

CICI’s ‘Safe Habitats’ program employ indigenous conservation rangers, training them on marine turtle populations, importance, and conservation techniques. The rangers presence along the Conflict Islands help to make aware local communities and decrease the number of illegal collectors from surrounding islands. Furthermore, to increase hawksbill hatchling success, they also collect ‘high risk’ eggs that are either below the high tide line or on a beach accessed by illegal collectors and relocate them in their hatchery on the main island of Panasesa. This project started in 2016 with just 4 local rangers but now they have 14, and this year they are seeking to employ an additional 4 women to the team. This project protects green and hawksbill turtles, every year they help around 28,000 hatchlings to get to the ocean. Billion Baby Turtles supported this project with US$ 3,000, helping to save an estimated 1,000 hatchlings.

Jaguars & Turtles At Nancite Beach, Costa Rica

By Adriana Cortes, Director of Latin America Programs

Nancite is a truly unique beach, one of the most important turtle nesting beaches in Costa Rica. But Nancite is not an easy place to visit. In order to get to Nancite I meet Luis Fonseca, the lead researcher of this project, in the city of Liberia in the Guanacaste Province around 4 pm. He changed his city car for a huge 4x4 jeep and we headed out to the Interamerican Highway.

Adriana, Pablo, & Luis

Overhead view of Nancite Beach, photo Luis Fonseca

It was a sunny afternoon with no rain on sight. After 40 minutes on the road, we turned at the entrance of Santa Rosa National Park. After 10 minutes on a secondary road the pavement ended and that’s where the fun started. Our jeep took on a muddy road for the next hour and a half; some parts, especially at the end, was so muddy to the point I thought we wouldn’t be able to make through.  But of course, Luis’ the experience got us to the end of the road, where Pablo, the station manager was waiting for us to help us with the supplies. We packed up and started on what was the hike. The first part was especially challenging, a very rocky and steep climb, taking me at least 30 minutes to traverse. At the top it took me 10 minutes until my heart and breath were back to normal; I realized that I need more exercise!

Even though it was already dark without any moon to light the way, I could see that the view was magnificent, with El Naranjo beach of one side and part of Nancite in the other side. The ocean was in front and the National Park behind us, only far away in the south could we see lights from the town of El Coco; there I realize how isolated we were at this spot. The descent took another 40 minutes which I found very easy after that tough climb. Once I was settled in at the station, we had dinner headed up to the beach.

Nancite is one of the two arribada beaches in Costa Rica for olive ridleys (Ostional is the other). The arribada is a rare phenomenon where the ridleys nest in mass, with thousands coming ashore over a few days. It was a surprise to me that Nancite could host an arribada, since it is only a 1 km beach (0.62 miles). This beach has 3 to 4 arribadas per season with around 70,000 nests total every season, producing around 3 million hatchlings annually. Our Billion Baby Turtles program has supported this project for the past three years.

Arribada at Nancite, photo Luis Fonseca

Nesting olive ridley, photo Luis Fonseca

Due to the difficult access to this beach and the protection of the park (closed during 2020 to the public due to the covid pandemic), for the past 10 years, the jaguar population has been growing in numbers. On this beach, they have found that jaguars eat the nesting turtles since are completely defenseless and slow, making them a much easier meal than a deer. All these factors make this place a unique opportunity to see a jaguar in their habitat, an opportunity that I was ready to take.

The night was clear, full of stars with some wind and just the perfect temperature for a great night patrol. It was a waxing moon, so it came out late during the night. It was around 10 pm when we went to the beach and the first thig we saw was a dead turtle, with a fatal wound on her head and many jaguar footprints around. The jaguars were out earlier than us; with the blood it seemed that the attack was very recent. Pablo and Luis deduced that it may be a female with her cubs who were there and killed the turtle.

Jaguar footage courtesy of Luis Fonseca

Not far from the first dead turtle, we found another chased turtle, this time from a solitary feline according to the tracks. Luis and Pablo were sure that the jaguars would come back for the chased turtles, so we walked the beach. We saw many tracks but no more turtles or jaguars that night; after midnight we decided to go to bed. The next day we had to wake up at 6 am to have breakfast and then a 3 hour trail in the other side of the north mountain to check their camera traps, which they use to study the jaguars and other wildlife in this area.

After coffee for me (and a good breakfast for the boys), we left the station by a path through the forest. Luis and I started walking when, just a the end of the path where it met the beach and the mountain starts, Luis stopped and said very quietly, “the jaguar.” I turned to my left and saw him, a magnificent, big, spotted yellow cat, only about 10 meters (33 feet) from me. He saw us and I could see his eyes; it was only few seconds, but it was enough for me to appreciate this unbelievable experience. I stopped breathing for a while, but I stepped on a branch and with this noise the jaguar turned around and ran gracefully to the beach to hide in the mangroves. It took me few minutes to realize what just happened; we tried to follow him, but he was, of course, faster and we didn’t see him again.

After this we continued our walk to the other side of a rocky mountain to check other camera trap. The view at the top was great and the whole experience unforgettable. We rested during the afternoon and that night we patrolled the beach a few more hours though we didn’t see any more turtles or jaguars. Luis and Pablo seem disappointed not to find a cat since they are usually around, but I was delighted with my experience of that morning. Next morning, we started our way back before to the road. It was a very short visit, but I already felt a certain nostalgia for leaving this incredible paradise. I’m sure I’m coming back one day.

Learn more:

Exploring Costa Rica’s Wildlife In El Jobo

We started our trip from Costa Rica’s Liberia Airport on a sunny day in August despite the forecast saying it would be a rainy week. Once our group participating on our Costa Rica Wildlife Research trip were all together, we headed to El Jobo with Lis, our local EcoTeach guide and our driver, a very pleasant 1.5 hour trip. Shortly before arriving to El Jobo we made a quick stop in the great viewpoint of Bahia Salinas, we could also see Nicaragua at the end of this huge natural bay. Then we took our private bus to finally get to El Jobo and to our hotel.

Photo of northwestern Costa Rica, credit Liseth Alfaro

We stayed at Casa Mariquita which has cabins going up a hillside, some with great views to the ocean. After everyone was settled in, we went to have dinner with a local family where we were going to eat all our stay there. After dinner we joined Ricardo with that our partner Equipo Tora Carey (ETC) for a short walk to check a hawksbill nest that was expected to hatch during the trip. Despite the fatigue, nobody wanted to miss this opportunity. We drove for 5 min to get to Playa Rajada, a beautiful sandy beach on a hidden corner of the Pacific Ocean. With thunder in the ocean lighting our path and with our local guide's advice, we decided to walk barefoot and feel the warm sand under our feet.

The second morning, we went to Manzanillo beach, a short 10 min walk. Once there Ricardo, one of the founders of Equipo Tora Carey, explained to us the work they do monitoring rays 3 times per week. Before ETC started working in this area, only one species of ray was reported; so far, they have now more than 20 species identified just at the 6 beaches they are studying. Ricardo also explained to us what to do if we see a ray, how to capture them, and what to do when we bring them to the shore. Then we started snorkeling around the area looking for these fascinating animals. At the end of the activity we captured 4 rays, and Sam, one of our group captured one on her first try! We learned a lot about rays, how to manipulate them, and how beautiful they are. 

Ray research, credit Sara Whicker

Credit Liseth Alfaro

At noon we headed to have lunch and talk with Mathilde, part of ETC, about how the organization started, how the community is involved in all the activities, and the great work they do with turtles, rays, parrots, and education. After lunch we decided to spend our free time at La Rajada beach; part of the group decided to just relax and take a nap on the beach and the other part went for a short hike to Playa Rajadita, the next beach and to the viewpoint that is in between. (photos) In the late afternoon, part of the team joined Mathilde for the parrot’s research activity, which is done on the porch of her house. That night we did a beach patrol with Ricardo and saw a nesting olive ridley and the last hatchling emerging from a nest.

The third morning we started with an early breakfast and then headed to Matapalito beach, a marine management area adjacent to Santa Rosa National Park about a 45 min boat ride awa across the Gulf. During the ride we saw mating turtles, rays, and many humpback whales jumping at the distance. ETC conducts in-water turtle research in a feeding area of the gulf, where the team caught turtles to study them and collect important data. We were not lucky with the net, but Mathilde caught an adult green turtle. With Marlon, the guide of the ETC team we measured, weighed, and checked the turtle. They also placed a PIT tag and metallic tags and finally we took a blood sample from the beautiful female. Happy to complete the duty, we had lunch at the boats before going back to Manzanillo, this time under the rain.

Nesting olive ridley, credit Samantha Pfeffer

Green turtle being weighed, credit Amy Disselkamp

On that night’s beach patrol, we checked a nest in El Jobo beach and found 49 olive ridley baby turtles. Since at this beach there is a big resort (Dreams Las Mareas) with many lights on the beach that can confuse the hatchlings, we had take them to nearby El Coquito beach to release them to make sure they did not head inland towards the lights.

On the fourth day, we had activities with the local community. We started with a ceviche workshop where everyone was involved doing part of the process of cooking the seafood in lime juice to eat for lunch. Then we had a soap workshop, where the local women showed us how to make our own soaps to bring home with us. We also visited a recycling center where women from the community work and live from this activity. That night, the patrol team split in 2, one walking La Rajada beach and the other did the long patrol up to La Rajadita. We didn’t find any turtles but we had an amazing view of a clear sky full of stars, walking on this lovely beach with bioluminescence in the waves.

After breakfast on the fifth morning, we visited a bat cave, taking a short trail along the cost departing from Manzanillo beach. Walking on the most ancient rocks of Central America, in this area we saw some of the first geological parts that emerged when the isthmus was formed due to volcanic activity and lifting of the ocean floor by subduction of the Cocos plate under the Caribbean plate 60 million years ago. The sky was blue, the water was pristine, and the amazing rocky formation contrasted with the luxurious green of the vegetation put a smile on our faces the whole time.

Credit: Mathilde Giry

That afternoon, when we got back to the beach to board the sailboat for the whale watching trip, Liz pointed out a group of capuchin monkeys, eating mangos, and hanging out just a few feet from us. After this, we boarded the boat, a 33 foot sailing boat with Mathilde and Marlon as the crew. After around 30 minutes, we saw a stream of water emerge in front of the boat; not far from us was a humpback whale! The crew turned to approach the whale and then we spotted another whale to our right; it was a magical spectacle.

After a few minutes, the whales submerged and we lost sight of them. By then we remembered that we were starving and turned around and went to dock around Isla Muñeca, (Doll Island.) Mathilde prepared a lovely lunch in a very nice spot for snorkeling. After lunch we snorkeled and then sailed back to Mazanillo with a beautiful sunset, such a perfect last afternoon in El Jobo. 

The last day of the trip, I left our group to visit Nancite, a turtle nesting beach that we support through our Billion Baby Turtles program (new post on that visit coming soon). The group with Lis headed to the Blue River Resort, a wonderful lodge with hot springs, gardens and more located near the Rincon de la Vieja National Park. The travelers chose their own activities that day, hiking or just hanging around the beautiful grounds of the resort. Our first trip to El Jobo was a great success, with our group working with many species of animals, seeing several turtles, and bringing important income to this community to continue its conservation and research efforts.

Credit: Liseth Alfaro

Working To End The Tortoiseshell Trade

Our Too Rare To Wear program has been busy this year. We launched our ground-breaking SEE Shell App in April and since then have been collaborating with partners to improve the app, train law enforcement officials on its use, and support long-term efforts to reduce the trade in key spots around the world.

Key highlights from this work:

  • Launch of the SEE Shell app: SEE Shell is the first to use machine learning to identify hawksbill shell products with photos. More than 1,100 people in 23 countries around the world have downloaded the app to date, which includes 650 downloads from the Apple App Store and 520 downloads on the Google App Store as of August 2022. The app has been tested to reach about 90% accurate on tortoiseshell products.

  • Colombia: Our partner Fundacion Tortugas del Mar has completed workshops with hundreds of participants in coastal towns to educate about this trade and train people how to use the app. They also conducted surveys of more than 500 shops in the region, finding more than 30 selling more than 1,500 pieces of tortoiseshell. They also added 30 new shops to their Turtle-Free Souvenir Shops program.

  • Panama: Too Rare To Wear funded a two week-long series of workshops and visits on the hawksbill trade in Panama with our partners at the Leatherback Project, Fundacion Tortugas del Mar, and representatives of the Panamanian Ministry of the Environment and Navy.

    This team also conducted a training survey on the tortoiseshell trade with more than 2,500 representatives of the Panamanian Army & Navy, who are key to enforcing the laws on wildlife trafficking in the country. In addition, they held 4 workshops for local kids in 4 coastal communities, reaching more than 300 students. Finally, while traveling the country, the team investigated the use of tortoiseshell for the cockfighting industry, which little information has been available due to its secretive nature.

  • Indonesia: Our partners Turtle Foundation / Yayasan Penyu Indonesia are conducting a large outreach campaign that will include advertising on tv, radio, and social media, creation of outreach materials including signage, shirts, and costumes to use for student education. Our funds will help to train local artisans in alternative materials to allow them to stop selling tortoiseshell, as well as business training. In addition, they will be holding three workshops for law enforcement to promote use of our app.

  • Collaboration with WWF: Our collaboration with WWF Australia has been extremely fruitful, starting with their office sharing tortoiseshell images to train the machine learning model. Their staff provided input and helped to test the app in the early stages. ·      SEE Shell will be showcased in a toolkit for the TRIPOD Project which is a collaborative project of Freeland Foundation, WWF, and IFAW. They are highlighting SEE Shell as part of WWF’s ShellBank – Marine Turtle Traceability and Forensics Training workshops led by the Global Marine Turtle Conservation Lead in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. A total of 30 participants from 10 law enforcement agencies from Sabah Malaysia have participated so far.

Learn more about our Too Rare To Wear program here.

Sea Turtles & Plastic Program Update

It has been a busy few months for our Sea Turtles & Plastic program! With grants to organizations in Curacao, Colombia, Kenya, and Mexico, we have helped our partners fund efforts to cleanup up sea turtle nesting beaches, educate and engage local communities, and convert plastic beach trash into marketable goods. Our partners have engaged in hard on the ground work, launching new programs and working on novel solutions to ocean plastic issues.

Green Phenix

On the island of Curacao, Green Phenix organizes regular beach cleanups, educational tours and converts collected ocean plastic into new products. Founded in 2019, Green Phenix grew from a project in a backyard to an organization with 8 employees and 24 participants in a “learn and work program” in a beautiful facility that has reached over 5,000 kids with educational presentations. Their project offers people that have been unemployed for a long time the opportunity to join the “learn and work program” for 1 year.

Since October 2021, they have collected a staggering 7,660 kg (16,800 lbs) of trash with 269 kg (~600 lbs) marked for recycling through regular beach cleanups with the support of funds from SEE Turtles. In their plastic bakery, collected beach plastic is transformed into new products. Current efforts are focusing on using newly acquired molds to convert beach plastic into standardized high-quality souvenirs. Four team members have been trained to operate the 3D printers so far. They also produce products that are handcrafted and extruded.

Photo: Green Phenix


Research Center for Environmental Management and Development (CIMAD)

CIMAD works to address the pollution of sea turtle nesting beaches in the community of Pangui in the Chocó Pacific region of Colombia by transforming plastic into artisanal and utilitarian handicrafts made by local women. Efforts began in December of 2021 by sending materials and tools funded by SEE Turtles to a group of women known as Mujeres Conservando Vida. They were able to turn collected beach trash into Santa Claus dolls and Christmas trees that the women were able to take home, with the intent to teach locals that recycled materials can be transformed into decorative objects, handicrafts, and other marketable products. In January of 2022, the first workshop on plastics and turtles was held with the group of women, where they were informed about the importance of keeping the beaches free of this material for the conservation of sea turtles in their community.

Currently, the Mujeres Conservando Vida group is made up of 14 people, 8 of whom are active in the production of recycled plastic products. So far, they have collected 6.5 kg of plastic (14 lbs) from local sea turtle nesting beaches. This material has been washed, dried, cut into strips, and turned into skeins which have been woven into hats and bags. They have also created flowers and floral arrangements. COVID has slowed tourism in the region but they hope to be able to sell their products at the Nuquí airport, as well as hostels and hotels in the area soon. They are also marketing their goods on Instagram where you can find them as @mujeresconservandovida. They plan to donate 15% of the profits obtained from products sold to tourists to purchase equipment needed by local groups that monitor the Pangui sea turtle nesting beaches. 

Photo: CIMAD


Community-Based Environmental Conservation (COBEC)

Tying together sea turtle monitoring, education and plastic waste collection, COBEC has focused their efforts on the beaches and communities along the Marereni Seascape of Kenya. With little known about the local sea turtle population, COBEC began by training 10 community members with a passion for sea turtle conservation. Residents were taught how to effectively monitor the sea turtle nesting beaches and to collect data needed to inform management for the proper conservation. The team has identified 27 nests this season with 14 nests successful hatchings for a total of 1,478 hatchlings. Three species have been identified nesting on their beach: green sea turtles, hawksbills and olive ridleys.

Every month they hold a beach cleanup with local communities in their attempts to keep the nesting beaches free of trash and aide in habitat restoration. They have collected 1.2 tons of plastic waste and procured a plastic bottle shredder to shred and convert this plastic into small goods like key holders. They have also filled 1,000 plastic bottles with sand to make building materials.

Photo: COBEC


Campamento Tortuguero Mayto

Campamento Tortuguero Mayto works to address plastic pollution in their local communities on Mexico’s Pacific coast by providing local collection containers. Previously, people would dispose of plastic by burning it along with their garden waste, adding toxins to both the environment and air. The collection containers have provided local communities with an alternative disposal solution. With 29 containers currently deployed, they have collected 411 kg of plastic (~900 lbs) in the last 6 months, benefiting 250 people.

The plastic collected in these containers is brought to transported to the collection and management center, located at the Centro de Educación Ambiental de Mayto (CEAM). Plastic is manually separated according to plastic recycling number and color. Using the thermo-molding technique, the plastic is shredded into small pieces and directly recycled to create kids chairs, roof tiles, bowls, and other products. Recent efforts to create recycled goods have been halted due to electrical issues but they are hoping to resume soon. In the meantime, they are continuing their plastic collection and compaction, beach and town clean ups, and environmental education workshops with volunteers and students. They have also been working together with active members of the plastic transformation community in different states in Mexico. One example of this is their partnership with SuuT KuXtal, with whom they have designed and created a plastic inclusion mold to create a turtle that can be sold as a souvenir to tourists and students. Check them out on Instagram here @campamentomayto.

Photo: Eco Mayto

July Billion Baby Turtles Update

We’re continuing with our record-breaking year for saving hatchlings through our Billion Baby Turtles program! July was another very busy month with 11 new grants to 10 organizations working in 8 countries. We provided a total of $59,000 in grants that will protect an estimated 580,000 hatchlings at these beaches. Many of these grants were due to the tremendous support from our recent collaboration with SodaStream. That brings out total for the year to more than 2 million hatchlings saved.

Sea Turtle Conservancy, Bastimentos Island, Panama 

After more than 20 years of sea turtle research in Bocas del Toro Province, Anne and Peter Meylan formed a partnership with STC in 2003 to monitor increasing nesting by hawksbills along the Bocas coast. The area of work by the Meylans has been three important nesting beaches: Small Zapatilla Cay, Big Zapatilla Cay, and Playa Larga, are part of the Bastimentos Island National Marine Park. Billion Baby Turtles funds primarily support monitors on Playa Larga but also supported monitoring efforts on the Zapatilla Cays and weekly surveys on 11 km of beach adjacent to Playa Larga. Billion Baby Turtles supported this project with US $5,000 this season, helping to save an estimated 20,000 hatchlings this season.

Photo: Peter Meylan

Turtle Foundation, Sipora, Berau, and Selaut Besar, Indonesia

On the island of Sipora in West Sumatra, part of the Mentawai Islands, in autumn 2017, a completely unknown nesting 8 km beach of the endangered leatherback turtle was discovered: Buggeisiata. During decades the local community used to hunt nesting females and take the eggs for their consumption. With these practices the number of nesting females has decimated, but since Turtle Foundation is protecting this beach, the local community has respected the life of nesting females. By the end of March 2022 they protected 29 leatherback nests, 7 green turtles and 4 olive ridleys. With US $3,000, SEE Turtles supported this project which will save an estimated 500 hatchlings.

The Derawan Archipielago in the district of Berau, East Borneo, is located in the famous Coral Triangle, making it part of one of the most biodiverse marine areas. It also is one of the most important nesting sites for green turtles. In 2019 Turtle Foundation started their conservation efforts on Belambangan island and by the end of 2020 they extended their activities to the neighboring island of Sambit. All this work had led to a virtual complete decline of illegal collection for the first time in those islands, where turtle nests are now able to develop undisturbed. With US$ 10,000 Billion Baby Turtles supported this project, helping to save an estimated more than 52,000 hatchlings of three species. 

Selaut Besar is an important nesting site for green turtles in Sumatra. With a significant peak in September, they had more than 600 nests in the first year. Furthermore, leatherbacks turtles also nest on the island (22 nests). Lastly, the island is also sporadically visited by hawksbill turtles, so a total of three species of sea turtles nest on this unique island. Billion Baby Turtles is supporting this new project with US$ 10,000 for this upcoming season, helping save more than 13,000 hatchlings. 

Photo: Turtle Foundation

Ayotlcalli, Guerrero, Mexico

Campamento Tortuguero Ayotlcalli was founded in September of 2011 with the purpose of protecting three species of sea turtles that nest along 15 kilometers of beaches that include Playa Blanca, Playa Larga, and Barra de Potosi near Zihuatanejo. This nonprofit organization works with the assistance of several local and international volunteers who perform various activities such as night patrols searching for nests, relocating the eggs into the hatchery, and releasing into their vast new home. Billion Baby Turtles supported Ayotlcalli with US $3,000, helping to protect about 8,500 hatchling of the 3 different species that nest on these beaches (olive ridleys, leatherbacks, and black turtles).

Reef Guardians, Lankayan Island, Malaysia 

Since 2004, this project has protected hawksbill and green turtles nesting on Lankayan Island, in Malaysia. Since then, the annual nesting increased gradually from 138 nests in 2004 to 833 in 2021. In the last season, they protected 726 nests of greens and 107 nests of hawksbill turtles. In 2021, nesting recorded the 2nd highest total for the last 21 years. A total of 74,506 eggs were incubated for both species with a total of 59,863 hatchlings helped to the sea. With US $3,000, Billion Baby Turtles supported this upcoming season, helping save about 3,100 hatchlings. 

SOS Nicaragua  

Since 2019, Sos Nicaragua has been independently implementing conservation efforts on the island of Los Brasiles, starting a sea turtle protection program that extends to all recorded nesting species. The average number of nests protected annually usually exceeds 100, mostly nests of olive ridley turtles. Billion Baby Turtles support this project with US $2,000 this year which will help save about 1,400 hatchlings. 

Fundação Tartaruga, Boa Vista, Cabo Verde               

The Turtle Foundation has been active on Boa Vista since 2008, initially as a project and in 2021 Fundação Tartaruga, was created as a non-governmental organization registered under Cabo Verdean law. Through their protection programs, the total number of turtles killed has been drastically reduced year after year. Monitoring of the nesting beaches is conducted by local rangers and volunteers, but also with innovative methods such as the use of drones. Last season they protected a total of 20,660 nests and helped save more than 1 million baby turtles. Billion Baby Turtles is supporting this program with US $10,000 for this season, which will help save about 28,500 hatchlings.

Everlasting Nature,  Kimar Island, Indonesia    

This organization helps protect hawksbill turtle to help the recovery of this population, which has been devastated by the tortoiseshell trade. This island used to have a big problem with illegal egg collecting, this is the main reason for the establishment of this project. Everlasting Nature hires local people as “egg guardians,” walking the beach every morning and collecting nesting data. They conduct this this project with Indonesia Sea Turtle Research Foundation (Yayasan Penyu Laut Indonesia/ YPLI) as partner. Our Billion Baby Turtle program supported them with US$ 5,000 for this season, protecting an estimated 14,000 hatchlings.

Photo: Everlasting Nature

Guanacaste Dry Forest Conservation Fund, Costa Rica 

Playa Nancite is the second most important nesting site for olive ridley sea turtles in Costa Rica. The arribadas of these turtles generally result in between 20,000 and 116,000 nests each year. Green turtles also nest at Nancite, but in much smaller numbers. Turtle biologist Luis Fonseca has been studying the sea turtles of this area for more than a decade. He has expanded his research to cover the prey/predator phenomenon between nesting sea turtles and jaguar population, the first beach where such interactions have been extensively documented. With US$ 3,000 SEE Turtles supported this important beach that will help protect approximately 430,000 hatchlings.

Conservation des Espèces Marines, Grand-Béréby, Ivory Coast     

Conservation des Espèces Marines (CEM) has been active for more than a decade in sea turtle protection activities, focusing on approximately 30 km of beaches west of Grand-Béréby. CEM is a local nonprofit association of Ivory Coast and it is composed almost entirely by members of local communities. Three sea turtle species nest on the beach West of Grand Béréby: leatherbacks, with up to 200 nests every season, olive ridleys, with up to 650 nests every season, and green turtles, with up to 50 nests every season. Billion Baby Turtles is supporting this organization for the first time this year with US $5,000 to help protect an estimated 10,000 hatchlings.

May & June Billion Baby Turtles New Grants

Our Billion Baby Turtles program supports important turtle nesting beaches around the world. To date, we have provided $185,000 for 28 nesting beaches, helping to save an estimated 2.5 million hatchlings in 2023, with more grants planned for the rest of the year. See all of our partners here.

ProNatura Yucatan, Mexico

The project centers on the protection and recovery of sea turtle populations at three of the major nesting beaches for hawksbills and green turtles in the Yucatan Peninsula, the Caribbean, and the Northwest Atlantic, the team surveys a total of 79 km (49 miles) of beach. ProNatura Yucatan protects annually an average of 1,148 nests of hawksbills and 1,334 of green turtles; this is more than 200,000 baby turtles (for both especies) protected and helped to get to the big blue. With a grant of US $15,800, Billion Baby Turtles supports ProNatura this season to continue this great work. 

Hawksbill hatchlings from Mexico. Photo: Maria Andrade

Vida Marina, Puerto Rico

The Sea Turtle Project of Western Puerto Rico is one of the projects operated by Vida Marina: Center for Ecological Restoration and Conservation of the University of Puerto Rico at Aguadilla. The program staff monitors beaches for nesting activity, performs night-time watches, to tag and measure female leatherback turtles, using metal and pit tags, and performs nest inventories. This project also  assesses, investigates, reports and helps reduce sea turtle conservation threats such as: presence of feral dogs and cats, egg poaching, nest trampling by horseback riding tours and light pollution on nesting beaches.. Billion Baby Turtles contributed this season with a grant of US$ 5,000. 

Mar Alliance, Guna Yala, Panama

The autonomous Guna Yala Comarca on the Caribbean coast of Panama hosts incredible biodiversity and marine ecosystems. MarAlliance, which includes indigenous Guna biologists, students, educators, and fishermen, has been working in the Comarca to better understand the populations of marine megafauna in these habitats through in-water monitoring, as well as by conducting education, outreach, and capacity-building activities with schools, tour guides, fishers, and community leaders to improve management and conservation of marine resources.  This year Billion Baby Turtles supported MarAlliance with US$ 3,000 to establish and train the local community as managers of the project. 

Sri Lanka Turtle Conservation Project, Rekawa, Sri Lanka

Rekawa is a small fishing village located on the Southern coast of Sri Lanka. Five species of sea turtles come ashore to nest on the beaches of Sri Lanka and all these five species nest in Rekawa. It is probably the most important green turtle nesting rookery in Sri Lanka. Until 1996, none of the turtle eggs survived but were consumed or sold by the locals. The main objectives of this project are: 1) In situ protection of all sea turtle nests and hatchlings at this sanctuary; 2) provide alternative livelihood for Rekawa community members who used to depend on turtle egg collection; and, 3) provide an opportunity for general public, tourists and researchers to participate and learn more about this turtle population. On average this area has 800 nests of green turtles, 40 of olive ridleys, and sporadic nests of leatherback, loggerhead and hawksbills. With these efforts more than 80,000 hatchlings are helped every year to get to the ocean. Billion Baby Turtles program supported this project with a grant of US $10,000.

Comunidad Protectora de Tortugas de Osa, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

This Organization protects especially olive ridleys and green turtles and sporadically hawksbills and leatherbacks at 3 beaches (Playa Carate, Pejeperro and Río Oro). Since 2019 Tortugas de Osa monitoring and research projects offer the opportunity to involve different local actors, volunteers and conservation organizations, to contribute to the protection and monitoring of marine turtles. This is a community-led conservation association that aims to integrate local people in the conservation of the highly biodiverse Osa Peninsula, and more specifically the busy sea turtle nesting beaches of Rio Oro and Carate. They focus on marginalized communities in rural areas where individuals are looking to make positive change away from mining, hunting and poaching inside the Corcovado National Park area. Billion Baby Turtles supported this project with US$ 10,000 for this year. 

Olive ridley hatchlings from Costa Rica. Photo: COPROT

Sea Turtle Conservancy, Tortuguero, Costa Rica 

Sea Turtle Conservancy has conducted research and monitoring Tortuguero Beach since the mid-1950s. Tortuguero hosts a globally important green turtle rookery that regularly receives more than 100,000 green turtle nests per year. From 2010 through 2020, green turtle nesting at Tortuguero has ranged from a low of 48,625 nests in 2017 to a high of 180,310 nests in 2010. During this ten-year timeframe, the average annual number of green turtle nests was 109,868 nests. STC recorded 68,453 nests in 2020, which continued what appears to be a recent downward nesting trend that STC has observed since 2014. This beach produces around 8,230,212 green turtle hatchlings every season. This is the first year that SEE Turtles support this project with a grant of US $10,000 through our Billion Baby Turtles program.

Sea Turtle Conservancy, Soropta, Panama 

Soropta Beach is a 14-km Beach hosts between 200 – 800 leatherback nests per year, making it one of the most densely nested beaches for this species in the region. Unfortunately, illegal hunting of leatherback nests remains an issue due to its isolated location, relative ease of access and cultural tradition of sea turtle egg and meat consumption in the area.  In 2021 this beach had the a record of 1,484 nests at this beach but lost 48% of them due to illegal take. In 2022, STC is implementing a two-pronged approach to curtail illegal egg taking: implementing a hatchery and directly housing law enforcement personnel at STC’s Biological Research Station. Billion Baby Turtles supported this project with a grant of US $7,000 in addition to bringing our first Panama conservation tour this year.

Nesting leatherback from Soropta, Panama. Photo: Brad Nahill / SEE Turtles

Estación Las Tortugas, Mondonguillo Beach, Costa Rica

Estación Las Tortugas is a sea turtle nesting project to help protect the vulnerable leatherback sea turtle from the illegal egg collection and to help its recovery on a national and international level in the 3 km beach. Being part of the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, and together with the other beaches on that coast side of Costa Rica, this beach is part of one of the most important nesting sites in the world for the Atlantic leatherback sea turtle. This project protects every year between 300 and 600 nests of leatherbacks and sporadic nests of green and hawksbill turtles and more than 12,000 baby turtles are helped to the ocean every year. Billion Baby Turtles supported Estación Las Tortugas with a grant of US $2,000 this season. 

Inclusivity Fund Profile - Angelica Burgos

Note: Our Sea Turtle Inclusivity Fund provides financial support for young leaders from local communities near sea turtle habitats in developing countries around the world to advance their careers. This is a piece written by our most recent scholarship winner.

My name is Angelica Burgos. I am a Marine Biology student at the Universidad de Oriente Núcleo Nueva Esparta (Venezuela). From an early age, I have awakened an interest in animals and nature. I have been a collaborator of wildlife conservation programs on Isla de Margarita, and for years I belonged to the Scouts Association of Venezuela.

I haven't been able to continue with my plans because I have a chronic health situation, which, although not serious, has limited my opportunities. For me, this scholarship means an opportunity to continue my studies focused on marine life and conservation, and an impetus to start researching the threats facing sea turtles to generate possible solutions in the future. The Island of Margarita-Venezuela has great biodiversity and needs professionals who are dedicated to getting to know it to take care of it and conserve it. I want to be part of the solution and build a better world where the conservation of marine species is a priority.

With this inclusivity fund grant I have the opportunity to start a path towards sea turtle research, which will strengthen my training and will motivate me to generate real actions in the world of conservation.

Thanks to the SEE turtles Team for the great opportunity and to the MSc Marine Biologist Clemente Balladares for being a fundamental support for the procedures to obtain this scholarship, for his dedication, and for being the guide in this process.

Exploring Bocas del Toro, Panama

Our small plane eased gently out of the clouds to show the full archipelago of Bocas del Toro on a sunny June day. This area region on Panama, known for visitors from nearby Costa Rica, is truly an ecological gem. Composed of nine main islands, along with beautiful bays and ocean, mangrove cayes, and the northern Caribbean coastline, Bocas del Toro is home to a large part of the country’s indigenous population as well as native flora and fauna. After a quick stop for lunch in Bocas town, located on Isla Colon, we headed out by boat to the Soropta Field Station, along the mainland coast about an hour ride away.

Our group was here for our first Panama Leatherbacks & Hawksbill trip with our partners and friends at the Sea Turtle Conservancy. For five nights, we would be walking the turtle nesting beach and supporting the research and conservation work by our partners. We passed by a local family known for its illegal collection of turtle eggs, a stark reminder that much work remains to be done to protect these nesting turtles and their eggs. We arrived to the station in time for a release of leatherback hatchlings to the ocean, a wonderful introduction to the station.

 That night we were treated to a rare experience; the Sea Turtle Conservancy staff were putting a satellite transmitter on a leatherback turtle, as part of their Tour de Turtles, a fun race between turtles in various spots around the Caribbean and Atlantic (follow this turtle CU-perina II here). While putting a transmitting on a leatherback is a bit more intensive than gluing a transmitter to the carapace of a hard-shell turtle, the information collected is critical to understanding the life cycle of these turtles. On our way back from witnessing this nesting turtle, our group encountered another and several of the group were able to help with the eggs to bring them to the hatchery, where they will be protected until hatching.

The next day, we had an introduction to the research being carried out at Soropta. This beach is one of the more important leatherback beaches in the Caribbean and has seen dramatic increases in nesting over the past few years. This season was a down one compared to a year ago, but still had more than 700 nests this season to date. STC staff are working on research to understand the composition of the sex of the leatherback hatchlings, as well as the health of this population. SEE Turtles, through our Billion Baby Turtles program, has been helping to fund the work at this beach since 2013, having provided more than $45,000 which has helped to save an estimated 60,000 leatherback hatchlings.

The next night, we headed out for another night of patrolling the beach. Shortly after the skies opened up, and the rain and wind kicked in, a turtle arrived. But members of our group got the full turtle experience, waiting until she nested and helped to bring the eggs to the hatchery just as the rain subsided. The next day, we headed to the Oreba Chocolate Tour, a wonderful activity run by the Ngobe indigenous community. Their fantastic guides showed us around their community, showing how the cacao is grown and processed, along with some of the plants and animals they use for sustenance and medicine. At the end of the trip, we were served a delicious traditional lunch and picked up chocolate and other crafts for souvenirs.


One day, our group collectively decided to get up for sunrise to see if there was a late nester that we might be able to see in the daylight. I was up a bit before the group and could see a beautiful sunrise forming over the water so I headed out to the beach to see if I could spot a turtle. I quickly noticed just a few meters from the entrance to the beach a dark spot of sand that was obviously a nest. Thinking we had missed a turtle right in front, as I started to walk over to inspect the nest, I noticed movement and realized the turtle was still there! I quickly ran back to the station to alert the group and back out to start taking photographs.

Nesting leatherback in Soropta. Photo: Brad Nahill / SEE Turtles

 I spent several seasons working with leatherbacks in Costa Rica and have visited dozens of nesting beaches around the world but this was the best turtle experience I’ve had. Between the happy group, the beautiful sunrise, and witnessing the full nesting process in daylight, it was a morning I’ll never forget. Later that day, we headed out for a tour of the area’s canals, seeing many species of birds along the waters.

We wrapped up our tour visiting a couple of spots around the archipelago. The first stop was Starfish Beach, the most popular spots in the country, filling up with sunbathers every weekend. This area was visited by Christopher Columbus on his fourth visit to the hemisphere in the early 1500’s. Fortunately for us, we went on a Thursday when it was much more relaxed. We borrowed some snorkeling gear to check out the many sea stars around the clear waters, and relaxed with drinks by the beach. That night we had a free night to explore Bocas town, the main tourist area of the archipelago.

On our final full day, we did a full day tour of the islands, starting with looking for sloths along the water’s edge and bottlenose dolphins in the bays (we saw several of both). Later we headed to an area to snorkel and see some of the fish and coral species that live here. Finally, we ended with a picnic lunch on Zapatilla Caye, one of three islands in the Bastimentos National Marine Park where hawksbill turtles nest. While it was too early to see any hawksbills, we were able to take a walk through the island and snorkel in the crystal blue waters. SEE Turtles, through our partnership with the Berman Memorial Fund, has also been supporting the hawksbill nesting work of renowned researchers Annie & Peter Meylan, who have worked with community members for decades.

On our final night in Bocas, we met for a group dinner in a beautiful restaurant along the water. Unfortunately we had another taste of the reality of the situation for sea turtles in this area, witnessing two vendors who had tortoiseshell products for sale at tables along the main street. The good news for hawksbills is that since the end of the legal international trade, their numbers have grown significantly in this area and others, but the illegal trade continues to threaten this critically endangered species. Our Too Rare To Wear program is working to combat this trade (check out our SEE Shell App that can ID these products here) and we’re hopeful that hawksbills can recover over the long-term. With partners like Sea Turtle Conservancy leading the way, much progress is being made in Panama and around the world.

April Billion Baby Turtles Report

Past Grant Reports

Our Billion Baby Turtles program is on pace for a record year of saving sea turtles. Check out the results from grants from last year and our April grants from 2022!

Comunidad Protectora de Tortugas de Osa, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

This organization protects especially olive ridleys and green turtles and sporadically hawksbills and leatherbacks at 3 beaches (Playa Carate, Pejeperro, and Río Oro). This is one of the most biodiverse areas in Costa Rica. Since 2019 Tortugas de Osa monitoring and research projects offer the opportunity to involve different local actors, volunteers and conservation organizations, to contribute to the protection and monitoring of marine turtles. 

During the 2021-2022 nesting season Billion Baby Turtles supported this project with US$ 10,000, helping to protect a total of 6,278 ridleys and 379 pacific green nesting females. The hatchling emergence for olive ridleys was 60% and 83.4% for green turtles. The estimated total production of baby turtles  across all their 3 beaches for ridleys was 450,000 and 25,000 for the Pacific green turtles. 

Olive ridley hatchlings from Costa Rica. Photo from COPROT.

Guanacaste Dry Forest Conservation Fund, Nancite, Costa Rica

Playa Nancite is the second most important nesting site for olive ridley sea turtles in Costa Rica. The arribadas of these turtles generally result in between 20,000 and 116,000 nests each year. Green turtles also nest at Nancite beach, but in much smaller numbers (between 20 and 65 nests per year). Turtle biologist Luis Fonseca has been studying the sea turtles of this area for more than a decade. His research covers the prey/predator phenomenon between nesting sea turtles and jaguar populations at Nancite beach, the first beach where such interactions have been extensively documented. With a US $3,000 grant, SEE Turtles supported Luis Fonseca research at this important beach.

In the 2021 season 68,230 nests of olive ridley turtles were protected, helping to get into the ocean 3,872,716 baby turtles. They also protected 26 nests of green turtles, helping 1,165 hatchlings of this species. With US$ 3,000 Billion Baby Turtles supported this beach for continue its work this year.

New Grants

Sea Turtle Conservancy, Panama (US $ 7,000)

After more than 20 years of sea turtle research in Bocas del Toro Province, Anne and Peter Meylan formed a partnership with STC in 2003 to monitor increasing nesting hawksbills along the Bocas coast (covering ~50 km of beach in recent years). The area of concentrated work by the Meylans has been three important nesting beaches: Small Zapatilla Cay, Big Zapatilla Cay (both since 2003), and Playa Larga (since 2006), all of which lie completely within the boundaries of the Bastimentos Island National Marine Park (BINMP). Research activities are conducted by beach monitors hired from local indigenous communities with help during most years from international student volunteers. In the last 8 years and thanks to the protection of the area, the number of hawksbill nests have doubled. In 2021, more than 140,000 hawksbill hatchlings are estimated to have been protected on BINMP beaches.

STC researcher Arcelio with a hawksbill turtle in Panama. Photo by Peter & Annie Meylan

Asociación Salvemos las Tortugas de Parismina (ASTOP), Costa Rica (US$ 3,000)

ASTOP protects the 6-km beach between the Parismina River and the Pearl Lagoon. This stretch is among the 10 most important beaches for nesting leatherbacks on the Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. This organization protects more than 200 leatherback, more than 100 green turtles, and sporadic hawksbills that nests every year.  In previous monitoring work, some season more than 20,000 hatchlings can be protected at this beach, with a calculated cost of 60 cents per baby turtle saved. 

Ecosystem Impact Foundation, Indonesia (US$ 10,000)

This nonprofit organization works in Bangkaru Island protecting primarily green turtles and sporadic nesting leatherbacks. In addition to the protection of nesting turtles, Ecosystem Impact develops law enforcement capacity, campaign and advocacy work, community awareness, rangers training, and social media education.

Last season, Ecosystem Impact implemented for the first time a conservation program in this area, working with the community and rangers patrols. This work has led to the increased protection for these turtle nesting populations in the island, with a result in reduction of illegal collection. They also collected data on the project  focus species which has fed into international research and conservation discussion. Due to concerns around turtle nests being lost to beach erosion and lizard predation, relocation of most at risk nests has been implemented and they are also working in further mitigation and research for these populations. With US$ 10,000 they expect to protect around 62,500 baby turtles for this season

Ocean Foundation: Guanahacabibes National Park, Cuba (US$ 5,000)

Since 1998, the Ocean Foundation’s Cuba Marine Research and Conservation Program (CMRC) has built strong scientific collaboration and conservation programs between Cuba, the United States, and neighboring countries that share marine resources. Eight beaches are patrolled during the nesting and hatchling seasons (May to October) on the Guanahacabibes Peninsula. As for green turtle nesting population, it is the second largest of the Cuban archipelago and also exhibits high levels of hatching success.

The main goals of this project are to monitor and protect nesting areas, record morphometric, nests and eggs information, study, temperature and humidity to determine the best conditions, expand studies on existing genetic diversity for this area, assess the impact of climate change on the reproductive success of sea turtles, train university students and volunteers, and develop educational work in local communities. With this grant, Billion Baby Turtles will help to protect around 35,000 baby turtles in this area. 

Green turtle nesting in Guanahacabibes. Photo from Dr. Julia Azanza.

Sea Turtle Inclusivity Fund

PAMALI, Indonesia 

SEE Turtles launched our Sea Turtle inclusivity Fund in 2021 as a way to increase inclusion, diversity, and local community participation in our field. Our first three winners were from Latin America, Keithlyn Rankin of Costa Rica, Luna Viera of Brazil, and Royner Carrasquero of Venezuela. We’re excited to announce our first winner from Asia, Busdar Marabatuan from PAMaLi Indonesia.

With a grant of US $2,517, the Inclusivity Fund will cover Busdar’s salary for a year in the position of Ranger Coordinator, where he will be responsible for 4 Rangers. “My career goal in the position of Ranger Coordinator is to contribute to the development and progress of turtle conservation and strive to be an investment by creating a dynamic and innovative work environment.” -Busdar

Learn more about Busdar here.

Busdar with a juvenile hawksbill turtle in Indonesia. Photo: PAMaLi.

Meet our newest Inclusivity Fund Winner, Busdar Marabatuan

SEE Turtles launched our Sea Turtle inclusivity Fund in 2021 as a way to increase inclusion, diversity, and local community participation in our field. Our first three winners were from Latin America, Keithlyn Rankin of Costa Rica, Luna Viera of Brazil, and Royner Carrasquero of Venezuela. We’re excited to announce our first winner from Asia, Busdar Marabatuan from PAMaLi Indonesia. We wanted to share an introduction provided by him below.

My name is Busdar, I love sea turtles. I was born to parents who are very close to the coast and the sea. I was born on a remote island in Indonesia, namely Marabatuan Island, Pulau Sembilan District, Kotabaru Regency, South Kalimantan Province. My education from elementary school to junior high school was completed on Marabatuan Island, but for high school I was forced to migrate to the district capital because at that time there was no high school on the island.

My familiarity and familiarity with the coast and the sea formed my character. I am a lover of biological natural resources and their ecosystems such as the presence of turtles on the surrounding islands. I am really very concerned about the level of threat to the turtle population, which has decreased drastically over time, mainly due to the impact of illegal hunting and habitat destruction.

Over time, my growing concern for the sustainability of turtles on Pulau Sembilan prompted me to approach and join friends who at that time were not yet a PAMaLi association but were just a youth community who longed for turtle conservation through turtle conservation activities. For about 10 years, together with friends in the youth community who care about turtles, they have voiced concerns about the fate of turtles, which at that time trading in eggs and a small portion of meat and scales was still very widespread and open even though the government of the Republic of Indonesia had actually banned it through the laws and regulations of the Republic of Indonesia. In 2015, I determined to deepen my knowledge and insight in the field of wildlife conservation by accepting a vacancy as a volunteer at PROFAUNA Indonesia, a local organization based on the island of Java, precisely in Malang City, East Java. There I gained a lot of knowledge and insight related to wildlife and forests, and had an internship as a Ranger in the Wehea Forest, East Kalimantan, Indonesia.

 The climax was at the 2015 Saijaan Expo, an exhibition event at the Regency level that showcased local products from every sub-district on Pulau Sembilan. At that time, the Pulau Sembilan stand also offered turtle eggs to be sold in a pack of 10 seeds for Rp. 50.000. We, along with the youth community who care about turtles (the forerunner of Pamali Indonesia) contacted local journalists to cover the state of the Pulau Sembilan stand. Sure enough, the Pulau Sembilan stand still offered the protected turtle eggs for sale. And when the news was brought up to the television media, it immediately provoked a reaction from the Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries who was then held by Mrs. Susi Pudjiastuti.

After a few days, Mrs. Susi Pudjiastuti, the Minister, issued a circular addressed to Regional Heads, Governors, Mayors, and Regents to pay attention to the protection of turtles and their habitats in Indonesia. The Minister also ordered a work unit at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries to go down to the field to inspect the Saijaan Expo exhibition arena. As a follow-up to the findings of the incident, the central government of the Republic of Indonesia through the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries held a National Action Plan (RAN) program for Turtles from 2016-2019 and I decided to return and join the National Action Plan for Turtle KKP RI as one of the Enumerators for Turtle Conservation in the period 2016-2018. Over the next 2 years, he went back to deepen his knowledge and insight in the field of turtle protection and conservation by joining as a Turtle Conservation Ranger in the turtle conservation program on the islands of Bilang Angka, Balembangan, and Sambit with the Indonesian Turtle Foundation in the period 2019-2021. (Note, SEE Turtles Billion Baby Turtles program has been supporting the work on Sambit Island as well.)

That's a bit of my life's journey, especially those related to my life which intersects with the issue of wildlife conservation and their habitat, especially turtles. I want to continue to learn new things about the issue of turtle conservation in the hope that I can continue to explore things that are relevant to my career and passion so that I have more knowledge and insights that develop so that I can make a positive contribution to turtle conservation, both in the short term and in the long term. I believe that one day I can reach a senior position with experience in the field of turtle conservation and then we can share knowledge and insights about turtle conservation with junior turtle conservation activists now and in the future.

In that period of time, both what I have traveled and what I will take will not be short and easy, but will be full of challenges. However, I will continue to adapt, establish relationships, and expand my network to turtle conservation activists, either nationally, regionally or internationally. At the same time, he remains active and productive in his activities in the field of turtle conservation that he is engaged in. My career goal in the position of Ranger Coordinator is to contribute to the development and progress of turtle conservation and strive to be an investment by creating a dynamic and innovative work environment.

The career I chose as Ranger Coordinator is closely related to my work experience, so I will try my best to make a positive contribution to turtle conservation. For me, applying for a job involved in the issue of turtle conservation is very interesting, especially since I can learn by doing. It is certain that this will be a very valuable experience for enriching my knowledge and broadening my horizons on the issue of turtle conservation. Next, I will use my passion and talent in working for the sake of changing the knowledge, views, actions of people around us, both in Indonesia and in the world, especially on Pulau Sembilan which is the most important turtle habitat in South Kalimantan. Finally, let's think locally and act globally. The welfare of the turtle is a mandate from God which is entrusted to his trusted creatures, yes we, humans.

Billion Baby Turtles Feb / March 2022 Update

We’re excited to start a new regular series of updates for our Billion Baby Turtles and Sea Turtles & Plastic programs. Check back early each month to read about results from our partner grants and new grants to help save sea turtles around the world!

February 2022 Billion Baby Turtles Reports:

Sea Turtle Conservancy: Soropta Beach ,Panama

STC protects leatherback and sporadic hawksbill and green turtles at this beach in the northern Caribbean. During the 2021 season (from March 1 to August 17) SCT recorded 1,484 leatherback nests on Soropta Beach, which is the highest nest count recorded here since the beginning of this program. They did 1033 hours of night patrols, recording 647 encounters with leatherbacks. The total hatchling production at Soropta Beach in 2021 was 19,569 (18,412 leatherbacks and 1,155 hawksbills).

Funding from Billion Baby Turtles was used to cover the expenses involved in implementing monitoring and protection activities throughout 2021, including salaries, food and housing costs for project staff; purchase field equipment, such as flipper tags, headlights and data books; and gas for the project boat, which was needed to transport staff and supplies to/from the field station. With US $4,000 SEE Turtles helped to protect  350 nests and almost 5,000 hatchlings with a cost of 81 cents each baby turtle. 

Leatherback hatchling from Soropta

Soropta Field Station

Latin America Sea Turtles- LAST: Cahuita Beach & Pacuare Beaches, Costa Rica

Since 2000 ANAI and LAST non-profit organizations have worked made uninterrupted efforts for the protection and conservation of nesting females and baby sea turtles in Cahuita Beach. During the last decade it was estimated that 90% of the nests at this beach were lost by wildlife predation, illegal egg collectors, poachers or washed out by the ocean. Cahuita’s nest population represents one of the highest numbers reported for Caribbean hawksbill turtles in Costa RicaCR. Thus the importance of the protection of this beach. In 2021, SEE Turtles supported this project with US $4,500 USD. During this season the project recovered 32 nests of hawksbill and one of green turtle, with a total of 4,943 eggs. After the incubation period they released a total of 3,645 baby turtles with a success rate of 73,74%. All of the hatchlings baby turtles were released to the ocean in front of Puerto Vargas area at Cahuita National Park (CNP).

At Pacuare Beach, From February to July 2021 LAST monitored and protected lLeatherback nests in Pacuare. In this region, the illegal egg collection, still continues as a common practice;, just this season 34% of the total nests were collected (76). In the 2021 season, SEE Turtles supported the Pacuare project with US$ 5,000. During this period, 224 nests were protected, either moving them to the hatchery or relocating them to safer areas. They had a success rate of 78% and they released a total of 9,704 leatherback baby turtles.

Grupo Ecologista Quelonios, Punta Xen, Mexico

Since 1992 Quelonios established a program for the protection and preservation of hawksbill turtles in Punta Xen, covering 30 kilometers of beaches in the coastal zone of Champotón. This is one of the most important beaches for this critically endangered species in Mexico. For the 2021 season, they protected a total of 1,783 nests and 238,963 eggs with a hatching success of 73% with a total of 173,495 hatchlings. With US$ 4,000, Billion Baby Turtles supported Quelonios to protect 80 nests and almost 8,000 baby turtles to get to the ocean. 

Quelonios Hatchery

Hawksbill hatchling from Quelonios

ProCosta, Bahía de Jiquilisco, El Salvador

ProCosta has been working in Bahía de Jiquilisco since 2008 protecting nesting hawksbills. Prior to the establishment of the project, 100% of the nests and even some adult turtles were illegally collected and locals were unaware of the importance of their communities for this species. This project brings monitoring to the beach, nests protection and social outreach for local communities. During the 2021 season the project staff and local hawksbill conservation networks monitored 42 km of nesting beaches for 300 days. There were 310 nests during the whole season, and 308 were protected, with a hatching success of 53%. These efforts helped  24,949 baby turtles to get to the ocean. There were also 200 local families involved and benefited from this program. Billion Baby Turtles supported this project with US$ 5,000. 

March 2022 Billion Baby Turtles Grant Reports

Barbados Sea Turtle Project: Barbados)

This program protects primarily especially hawksbills but also some leatherbacks and green turtles. For more than 25 years, this project has been involved in conservation of sea turtles that nest on Barbados through research, education, and public outreach as well as monitoring of nesting females, juveniles and hatchlings. SEE Turtles has supported this project since 2020. The total number of hawksbills recorded nesting in the 2021 nesting season (June to November) was 494. With a grant of US $3,000, SEE Turtles helped to protect 90 nests and 10,831 baby turtles, with a cost of 27 cents per hatchling saved. The project had an estimated more than 237,000 total hatchlings for the 2021 season. 

Reef Guardians: Lankayan Island, Malaysia (Reef Guardians)

Since 2004, this project has protected hawksbill and green turtles nesting on Lankayan Island, in Malaysia. Since then, the annual nesting increased gradually from 138 nests in 2004 to 833 2021. This year they protected 726 nests of greens and 107 nests of hawksbill turtles. In 2021, the organization recorded the 2nd highest total for the last 21 years. A total of 74,506 eggs were incubated for both species with a total of 59,863 hatchlings helped to get  to the sea. With US $2,000, Billion Baby Turtles supported the protection of 60 nests and 4,000 baby turtles.

Ocean Foundation: Cuba, Guanahacabibes National Park, Cuba

Since 1998 the Ocean Foundation’s Cuba Marine Research and Conservation Program (CMRC) has built strong scientific collaboration and conservation programs between Cuba, the United States, and neighboring countries that share marine resources. Eight beaches are patrolled during the nesting and hatchling seasons (May to October) in Guanahacabibes Peninsula. As for green turtle nesting population, it is the second largest of the Cuban archipelago and also exhibits high levels of hatching success. During the 2021 season they registered 685 nests of gGreen turtles and 2 of hHawksbills and reported a very high hatchling success with 910.84%. However, many nests were lost due to environmental conditions. During this season SEE Turtles supported this organization with US $3,500, helping approximately 25,000 baby turtles to get to the ocean.

March 2022 New Billion Baby Turtles & Plastic Grants

Karumbé: La Coronilla, Uruguay

#Plastic Free Turtles will organize collaborative beach cleaning actions with the participation of coastal communities and local organizations of La Coronilla and Punta del Diablo (Rocha, Uruguay) for the removal of  plastic waste in coastal-maritime habitats in the area. These activities will be supported by the creation of environmental awareness and the empowerment of communities towards a circular and more sustainable economy. In addition, a systematic monitoring of the abundance and trend of aggregation of plastics within the Cerro Verde Marine Protected Area  will be implemented through the removal of plastic waste by the Karumbé team, along with the management and treatment of plastic waste originating in the organization's base camp. 

Once classified and cleaned, all of the collected waste will be transported for subsequent recycling by the company Plasticoin-Uruguay generating a virtual currency in exchange  for the total weight of waste delivered. This virtual currency will be reinvested in veterinary products and other supplies for the rehabilitation of sea turtles with problems of plastic intake (and other pathologies) in the rescue and rehabilitation center of Karumbé.  

Karumbe volunteers cleaning the beach in Uruguay

PROVITA: Paria Gulf, Venezuela

Near the estuary of the Orinoco River delta and the Paria Mountains National Park in Venezuela are several small beaches where leatherback and hawksbills sea turtle nests each year. The region in the early 2000’s century and before had a strong hunting pressure; the conservation project reduced that from 88% (in 2003) to 1% (2015) but since 2016 a lack of funds and habitat destruction has restarted the impact on the marine reptiles. This project’s goal for 2022 is to rescue a hundred nests, gather all the reproductive data from 5 main nesting beaches, and deter hunting through patrolling and transplanting nests to a secure hatchery in the town of Macuro.

Ayotlcalli, the Little Turtle Group That Could

There are many reasons that a turtle conservation organization like Ayotlcalli should not exist. The group was started by a school teacher, Damaris Marin-Smith and her husband Gene Smith who had no experience with sea turtles and no experience with running a nonprofit. Heck, she was afraid of the ocean and didn’t like sand or mosquitoes, let alone saw herself leading an effort to protect an ocean creature! But there she is, inspiring her community to protect turtles and their nests, educating kids, and showing the older and better funded organizations how it should be done. Ayotlcalli has succeeded over the past decade with minimal financial support but a boatload of passion and enthusiasm.

Olive ridley hatchling released by Ayotlcalli

 Walking around the communities of Barra de Potosi, Zihuatanejo, and Ixtapa with Damaris is like being in the entourage of a celebrity. People’s faces light up when she arrives and everyone wants a hug. It is difficult to go more than 30 minutes around this area with her and not meet one of her many volunteers.

 Ayotlcalli, which means “Place of the Turtle” in the indigenous Nahua language, began in 2011 when Damaris was visiting family in Zihuatanejo. An ecologist friend who lived there told her about the sea turtles nesting in this area and the problems they were facing including people eating turtles and their eggs, as well as feral dogs. In the evening, the friend took Damaris out to the beach to see a nest of hatchlings that a community member had saved and was releasing and later she saw a nesting turtle. The tears that flowed from the turtles eyes while expelling the salt water caused Damaris to tear up herself, and from there she was hooked.

Photo: Bridget Fahey

Damaris and Leo, a donor and member of Ayotlcalli

 In the first years of the project, Damaris and Gene played the role of international donors, funding the construction of a hatchery and supporting the effort out of her pocket from her home in Houston, Texas. That first nesting season, the work started late and only found a couple of nests, but they kept working at it, and the following season they had much more success. However, by the third year of the project, her friend decided to move and Damaris was going to close the project. But some of the volunteers working there at the time convinced her to keep going and helped to manage the project over the next few seasons.

 Her reach goes well beyond the turtles nesting on the three beaches where Ayotlcalli works; her popular camps attract kids both wealthy and not wealthy, for two weeks of learning about the natural world. From hands on work with the turtles, to cleaning the beaches, observing whales, visiting local wildlife refuges, and more, Damaris puts her teaching skills to work. The kids learn leadership and build social skills while gaining an appreciation for wildlife and their extraordinary community. (SEE Turtles has provided financial support for the camp.)


In 2017, Damaris retired from teaching in Houston and instead of relaxing or traveling the world, she and Gene began to manage the organization directly. She threw herself into learning about these animals and how to best protect them. She attended conferences and symposia to build her knowledge, meeting experts like Dr. Andy Coleman, Assistant Professor of Biology at Talladega College, who visited and provided guidance as the program grew.

 The areas where Ayotlcalli works include Playa Larga, Playa Blanca, and Barra de Potosi, in addition to supporting efforts on nearby Ixtapa Island. They work to protect four species of sea turtles that nest in this area, including the critically endangered hawksbill, the locally endangered leatherback, olive ridleys, and black turtles (a sub-species of the green turtle). Each season, they protect more than 800 olive ridley nests along with a handful of nests of the other species. They release more than 80,000 hatchlings each season, protecting nearly 90 percent of the nests, which is a tremendous accomplishment on long beaches with few staff. Our Billion Baby Turtles program provided a grant in 2021 and we plan to continue supporting the project in future seasons.

 On our recent visit, my colleague Dr. Adriana Cortes and I were impressed by Damaris’ energy and sincerity. But as we visited their hatchery (where the nests are watched until hatching), we were caught by surprise as she showed us Ayotlcalli’s data collection system. Where most sea turtle organizations continue to use data sheets on paper (even the most well-funded organizations do this), Damaris pulled out her phone and opened an app. With fields for all of the information any turtle project could want to collect, volunteers can fill out all of the data, collect the exact GPS location of the nest, and immediately notify Damaris. The hatchery was on a similar system, with alerts for when nests are ready to hatch, which species is which nest, and more. It was the most advanced data collection system either of us had ever seen (and we have visited a lot of turtle nesting beaches between us). The system was set up by local expat volunteers Mitchell Thorp and Patty Sullivan, who were able to get the app cost donated.

Visitors releasing olive ridley hatchlings as part of an Ayotlcalli activity.

But as great as this system is, Damaris’ most impressive skill is her teaching. We brought a group of friends to visit and release hatchlings one evening, and her presentation was one of the most entertaining and engaging sea turtle talks I’ve ever seen. Adults and kids alike were enthralled by her love for these animals. Adriana and I even learned new things from her hatchling release, such as using individual bowls for each hatchling, which eliminated the need for disposable plastic gloves while still giving each person an intimate experience with their hatchling. The entire sea turtle community could learn a lot by Damaris and Ayotlcalli, SEE Turtles hopes to help make that happen.

The Galapagos: Wildlife In Every Direction

The first thing you notice about going to the famed Galapagos Islands, before you even arrive, is how complicated it is to get there, especially during a pandemic. Flying there from Guayaquil is more like an international flight than domestic, from the multiple checks you get, additional paperwork, and even a quick fumigation on the plane before you disembark. This is all for a reason of course, a really good one: the Galapagos are a unique ecosystem and that requires visitors to be especially careful about what is brought in (and taken out). These islands are host to many invasive species that impact local wildlife, so steps are taken to make sure new ones are not brought with every new visitor.

The second thing you notice about the islands is how seamlessly wildlife is incorporated into daily life. From the sea lions occupying every bench within sight of the water, to the giant tortoises loitering along the road, to the ever-present iguanas wandering around. I’ve traveled around Central & South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean but I’ve never seen anything quite like this. To miss the wild animals here could only be done by walking around blindfolded.

After our arrival to the Baltra airport and transfer to our hotel in Puerto Ayora, our first stop was the Darwin Research Center, located on the edge of the island’s largest town. To explore the Galapagos National Park, you must hire a local guide to protect both the traveler and the animals, so we met our guide and did a walking tour through the campus. Darwin’s finches flitted about the ground, giant cacti grew in the desert scrubland, and various displays on the history of human and wild inhabitants on the islands, including the famous biologist himself. The tour ends with a visit to the breeding center of the famous giant tortoises, getting to see each part of the life cycle from hatchlings to retired breeding adults, and a visit to the final resting place of the famous Lonesome George.

The third thing you notice about the Galapagos is how varied the topography is and how quickly it changes with even slight difference in elevation. Our second day started with ride up to the Santa Cruz highlands to visit the Gemelos, huge twin sinkholes that offer a glimpse of the geologic history of the islands. Then we paid a visit to the El Chato Ranch to see where the giant tortoises migrate after nesting to mate and feed. Our visit wrapped up with a walk through a lava tunnel and a visit to the gift shop where you can pose inside a tortoise shell (though not the kind of shell we focus on with our Too Rare To Wear program!)

That afternoon we boarded a ferry to Isabela Island, the largest of the archipelago, about a two hour ride away. We arrived and transferred to our hotel which looks over a wetland with resident flamingos and other birds. That night, we had a surprise over dinner; two of our clients got engaged (a first for our trips)! The restaurant set up a special performance of a singer and a silk dancer, making the evening special.

Our first exploration of Isabella was a visit to a tortoise breeding center run by Galapagos National Park. Next we took a bike ride around Humedales, a wetland site that is home to many iguanas, tortoises, birds like blue footed boobies, and other animals. After lunch, some of the group walked to another wetland estuary, Concha de Toro, where we snorkeled around with sea lions, rays, and turtles. That evening, our group started its participation in our local partner Intercultural Outreach Initiative’s sea turtle research program. The beach along Puerto Villamil is home to a small population of nesting green sea turtles. Our group participated in beach walks each evening and morning though we were not lucky enough to see a sea turtle nest or hatch while we were there.

On day five, we headed up into the Isabela highlands, visiting a sustainable farm called Bellavista that IOI is supporting with its sustainable agriculture program. Our group toured the farm, soaked in the great views of the island, and each took a turn helping to milk a cow and learn how the family makes cheese and yogurt. This was followed by a wonderful lunch with the best pumpkin soup I’ve ever had, all prepared locally by the family. Upland farms like Bellavista were key to feeding the island’s residents during the pandemic as food became scarce when the island was cut off for long periods from the mainland.

The next day, we took a short boat ride to Tintoreras, a volcanic island that is home to penguins, iguanas, sea lions, and much more. We took a short walk through the lava rock, taking precautions to avoid nesting iguanas. We saw a black tip reef shark prowling the shallow water and observed three penguins hanging out on the lava rock, as well as blue footed boobies and other birds. That was followed by a snorkel where we spotted a sea turtle, rays, and many species of fish. Later that afternoon, a group of us took out tandem kayaks to explore the area more, getting our first opportunity to see sea turtles feeding on the algae growing on the shallow ocean floor.

Our final full day on Isabela was everyone’s favorite. We hopped on a boat to head to an area called Tuneles, a fascinating land and coastal waterscape of lava rock interspersed with both mangrove trees and cacti. We wound through the rock formations spotting sea turtle heads popping out of the water. Taking a short walk around the area, we watched from above as green turtles with fascinating orange spots wound their way through the tunnels. After that, we stopped at an area inside the tunnels to snorkel, seeing large schools of fish. The highlight though was a different spot we visited, a feeding area where we saw at least twelve green turtles. For me, this was an especially fun experience as it was my first time witnessing a cleaning station, with wrasses darting around a turtle’s mouth cleaning it of parasites. We also got to see a surprisingly large seahorse, its tail wrapped around a submerged tree branch.

Photo: Peter Tejada Flor

The visions of wild animals in every direction will stay with my long after this visit. Everybody should experience this extraordinary mixture of life at least once in their lives.

Sea Turtle Inclusivity Fund Update - My Experience in Cabuyal

By Keithlyn Rankin

Keithlyn Rankin

This was my visit to Cabuyal beach working with The Leatherback Trust (TLT), the first time as an intern and then as a research assistant and both times I have learned a lot about working in the field with sea turtles. I am very grateful to Bibi Santidrian and her team for the opportunity to do an internship as a university student in 2020 and now in 2021 / 2022 with the scholarship from the SEE Turtles Inclusivity Fund.

TLT is an organization that works hard on the conservation of sea turtles; the programs they have with interns, assistants and volunteers are very accessible and the work done is of the utmost importance. The place where I was working, Cabuyal, is not well known by people outside of Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Province but it is an important nesting beach of the olive ridley sea turtle. Although TLT focuses on leatherback sea turtles, data is also taken from the other species that visit the beach and I noticed that the population that nests the most is that of olive ridley turtles; green turtles and leatherback turtles also arrive. In this season we had very good numbers of new turtles compared to previous years; the visit of turtles was quite positive, until February that I was at the station there were a little more than 40 green turtles, 3 leatherback turtles, and many olive ridleys. This data makes clear the importance of this nesting beach in Costa Rica and the active dynamics of the population in this area of the Pacific.

In these months I shared with several of the people who live on or near this beach and it was interesting to comment on the anecdotes and stories, on the doubts and concerns generated by the behavior of sea turtles and on other issues that came to the fore. One day, a nest of olive ridleys turtles hatched during the afternoon, and the children who live near the beach grabbed the little turtles and took them to the station, a very good sign that shows the care they have with these animals. The clever children took the buckets they had at home and put sand inside, then they placed the little turtles and took them on quadricycles to the house where the biologists were; that night we released them to go to the sea. These actions demonstrate the community's interest in the welfare of the turtles. As a scientist and researcher, I believe that it is important to get involved with the people of the communities and learn from them while we teach them some management techniques and talk to them about the science, in such a way that together we can achieve a common goal, the conservation and care of sea turtles during their development and nesting process.

Other moments that I enjoyed during these months in Cabuyal were the girls' days. I remember that during the patrols and the censuses (daytime walks to count the tracks of the turtles that came out at night), I laughed a lot with my co-workers, sharing about the cultures of our countries. I practiced my English and we tried to save everything that we found along the way. Once with Heni, a friend from Germany, we saw a half-dead fish that was out of the sea, first we wondered if it was alive or not, so we touched it with a stick and the fish jumped. With the same stick I tried to put it back in the ocean, but that was not giving much results. The fish kept moving for a while and in a moment of desperation I put on a latex glove, took it by the tail and threw it into the sea. I looked at my partner again and we both celebrated. Yeei! We did it! But then I saw the fish again and it was floating on its side, it wasn't swimming, we stayed for a while to see what happened and well, we think it died because it never swam. The point of this not so happy story is that during work outings with the girls I had a lot of fun and learned from them too. I was with four Europeans, from Catalonia, the Basque Country, Germany, and Switzerland and also with Ticos (Costa Ricans) from Curridabat and the Zona de los Santos. These collaborations in organizations of this type allow you to meet people from different places and that has greatly enriched my personal life; I have made new friends and friends that I would like to be for life.

Thanks to this scholarship, I was able to actively participate in Cabuyal, be a patrol leader, train and accompany volunteers in their first encounters with sea turtles, and carry out various jobs in the field, such as excavations, taking the temperature of the sand at different depths and daytime censuses where the traces of the previous night are counted. All these activities are experiences that I acquired and hope to pass on in the next conservation projects in which I participate. During my stay in Cabuyal, I found moments of tranquility; sometimes I just sat down to watch the sun go down while the sky was completely painted orange or I got lost in the starry sky during the breaks of the night patrols, contemplating the constellations and the stars. Cabuyal is a beautiful beach during the day and at night; it is a charming place and when you add the sea turtles it makes it a magical place, even with the limitations that it presents such as the lack of telephone signal and the limited access to the "city.” Being in a place like this, these comforts of the city are not missed. I established many friendships in this place, thanks to technology I am now in contact with these people, however it is wonderful when you meet people who share the same love and some even the same passion for caring for sea turtles. It was quite a pleasant time and I am very grateful for it.