As the first post of our blog, we are going to share the impact obtained thanks to the volunteer program during part of 2021 and this year, 2022.
Every year gives many challenges for everyone and this 2022 has been crucial for Tartarukus and our volunteer and solidarity tourism program. Started in 2021, with the first group of volunteers received in August, this year has seen much of the consolidation of the program, which will continue to improve thanks to feedback from both program participants and the local groups we support in their activities. Here are some of our most relevant results during the development of the volunteer program in Oaxaca, Mexico:
Our achiviements during our volunteering in Mexico
- We started the environmental brigades with the children of two communities, Escobilla (the Crocodile Turtles) and Ventanilla (the Mangroves). We seek to meet with these groups every 15 days in defense of the environment, learning more about nature, teamwork and personal development, carrying out some activities in favor of conservation such as tree planting and beach cleanups and, in the near future, raising awareness in the rest of the community.
- Since the beginning of the program, we have received 42 volunteers for periods of 7, 11 and 15 days to participate in the projects led by the communities of Ventanilla (focused on crocodiles, deer and sea turtles), Escobilla and Morro Ayuta (focused on massive sea turtle nesting beaches), El Gavilan (a jungle protected by a group of more than 70 landowners) and Manialtepec (starting with their horseback ecotourism project, they want to start expanding conservation in their community).
We managed to raise in 13 months, thanks to the volunteer program, the amount of 425,000 Mexican pesos which were dedicated to:
- Finance conservation activities
- Cover the expenses of the program coordinator, who accompanies the participants during the whole stay
- Rural development by using local services in the communities where the conservation projects are located (food, lodging) and local public transportation along the coast of Oaxaca,
- Material for environmental education workshops and other conservation activities
Together with Kowabunga Ecoproject, we coordinated the project “Strengthening local conservation work of sea turtles of Escobilla indigenous community cooperative during COVID crisis”, with which Van Tienhoven Foundation financed the strengthening of the conservation activities of the Escobilla Ecotourism Center during the COVID crisis:
- Studying and implementing alternatives for financing the protection of sea turtles through ecotourism,
- Purchasing materials to repair the facilities after Hurricane Agatha,
- Repairing the road to the turtle camp
- Purchasing other materials such as wheels for the quad, the main tool during night patrols.
- Buying materials for the environmental education workshops.
- This project also helped financially to design the volunteer program and initiate its pilot phase, which started together with the Escobilla Ecotourism Center.
The set of all the actions carried out this year, leaves us with the true impact of the volunteer program:
- The support during the reparation of the turtle camp of Servicios Ecoturísticos Ventanilla after the passage of Hurricane Agatha, together with the Chiapas turtle group of Puerto Arista.
- The development of 18 workshops with children of which 2 were of Chontal indigenous language and the other 16 of environmental education, teamwork and personal development.
- 20 beach cleanups since the beginning of the program in August 2021.
- 59 night patrols to protect sea turtles together with the Escobilla, Ventanilla and Morro Ayuta groups.
Some difficult situations that we faced
We found a graveyard of sea turtles: 9 shells were found next to the lagoon. The turtles enter the lagoon thinking it is the ocean, confused.
People dedicated to meat and egg trafficking take advantage of their vulnerability in this place and fish them with their nets and, on the side, among the vegetation, they leave the evidence of their work.
It is very easy to recognize this work by the bumps they all have on their heads.
We had to see how dozens of looters took thousands of sea turtle eggs for sale at each of the Morro Ayuta arribadas.
On one occasion, they even came directly with a car to load sacks with up to 1,500 eggs in each. The others come on horseback, motorcycle or on foot. Each motorcyclist is capable of carrying up to 3,000 eggs in a single night. I will dedicate some publication to this problem and how difficult it is to deal with it in this region.
Understanding the problems that arise between the community and the exploitation of nature is not easy, seeing day by day how the sale of land for speculation, poaching, overexploitation of fishery resources and incidental fishing of protected species increases.
Next steps for this new year in the volunteering program
Following the implementation of all these activities, we are preparing to measure the impact of the volunteer program in 2023 with the following parameters:
|Strengthening of environmental awareness and values||Conduct environmental education workshops / Creation of environmental brigades||-number of children/ workshop|
-Numerical evaluation of skills acquired
|Reinforcement of the survival rate of sea turtles||Support the release of newly hatched sea turtles from the pen or in natural habitat||-nª of turtles released|
|Maintenance of crocodiles and deer||Provide food to deer and crocodile specimens and clean their areas in La Ventanilla IslandProvide food to deer and crocodile specimens and clean their areas in La Ventanilla Island||-nª of days assisted|
-number of specimens cared for/year
|Wildlife monitoring||Place or collect photo-trapping cameras in natural forest areas||-Cameras located|
|Restoration of natural forest areas||Plant tree specimens and plants||-number of specimens -species planted|
|Protection of sea turtles and their nests||Carrying out night patrols to protect females during nesting||-number of nests and eggs relocated to the nesting corral|
-number of nests hidden from looters
|Maintenance of clean natural areas||Cleanup of plastics and other human waste from beaches and other natural areas||-weight of plastic collected|
|Dissemination of local conservation projects||Create promotional and informational material for the natural areas both on site and through networks||-number and type of material created and its dissemination technique|
|Obtaining information on the socio-environmental situation||Conducting surveys of communities, local groups and other relevant organizations||-Numerical results on the chosen topics.|
|Beautification of the reception of visitors to natural areas||Decoration and design of posters||-number of creations|
-type of material created
|Strengthen non-extractive alternatives for natural resources||Support for Rio Seco’s traditional wood-fired oven bread bakers||-nª of workshops held|
Some volunteers wondered during the program what the impact of their actions was. What I have been able to see is that the volunteer’s impact is materialized in small actions, those small actions that count, that accumulate and that are already part of that program.
Some samples of actions of volunteers that make an impact
- Every time that from a conversation local people realize how impressive their natural spaces and biodiversity are,
- Every turtle that if we hadn’t brought it back on track it probably wouldn’t have made it to the sea,
- That turtle that if we hadn’t removed the rope tangled between its neck and flipper, it would have stayed with it for the rest of its (short) life.
- Those two puppies that we rescued abandoned on the beach, which, in the case of survival, would have become sea turtle predators and in the worst case, would have died, and so on and so forth.
These are “small” actions that save lives.
Planning your next volunteer trip?
If you want to be part of this program, your actions DO count!
Don’t hesitate in contact us to know more!