Billion Baby Turtles: Give a Dollar, Save a Turtle

SEE Turtles Organization launches billion baby turtles campaign

Baby turtles are adorable. They are also in serious trouble. The Billion Baby Turtles campaign launched by the SEE Turtles organization has a lofty goal. A billion is a big number, but that’s exactly what’s needed to save endangered turtle species.

“Odds are long for a baby sea turtle, even under the best of circumstances. With all the human activities added to the mix, survival is a challenge. Survival to maturity may be as low as one in a thousand. That’s why we are raising the bar and aspire to save a billion baby turtles, because that’s what’s needed now,” said co-founder of SEE Turtles and ocean conservationist Dr. Wallace J. Nichols.

Sea turtles have been on earth for more than 100 million years, even surviving dinosaurs. Yet, today, six of the seven species of sea turtles are threatened or endangered due to human impact. These reptiles inhabit almost every ocean basin on the globe, spending most of their lives at sea. Adult females come ashore to lay eggs several times a season every few years. After six weeks to two months (depending on the species), tiny hatchlings emerge from their sandy nests and head to the ocean.

From the time the turtles are hatched and they have their first swim until they return to coastal waters to forage as juveniles, it could take as long as a decade for turtles to hatch, have their first swim and return to coastal waters to forage as juveniles—and there are many threats along the way.

Turtle eggs are poached and sold on the black market for human consumption. Artificial light from houses and buildings attract hatchlings away from the ocean. Those that make it to the open ocean often get caught in fishing nets and drown. They also die from consuming plastic bags that look like jelly fish. Coastal development destroys important breeding grounds and impacts coral reefs which are turtle-feeding areas.

SEE Turtles organization, which started in 2008, promotes conservation of endangered turtles through responsible travel and education to help local communities. With the newly launched Billion Baby Turtles campaign, the organization hopes to reverse the decline of these endangered species. The funds raised for Billion Baby Turtles campaign will go directly towards paying local residents to patrol turtle nesting beaches, and protecting mommy turtles that come up to nest. The program also ensures that the eggs are protected from both natural and human encroachment by building and maintaining hatcheries where the eggs are watched until they hatch and are released to the ocean.image

Just a dollar can save one sea turtle. So far, the funds raised by SEE Turtles have helped save more than 30,000 baby turtles, mainly the critically endangered hawksbill and leatherback turtles in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. “Our goal for this year is to raise $50,000 to save 50,000 new hatchlings,” said Brad Nahill, co-founder and director of SEE Turtles.

The money raised so far by the Billion Baby Turtles went to the Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative. It was once believed that the population of hawksbill turtles was functionally extinct. A few conservationists didn’t buy that and over a few years, found two major nesting beaches, one in El Salvador and another in Nicaragua. “We gave them a $10,000 grant. 90 percent of the nesting of the population of sea turtles is between these two sites,” said Brad.

In addition to fundraising, SEE Turtles promotes conservation travel. Brad said, “I saw first-hand how tourism could bring in the money to help conservation programs. These programs involve members of the local community. People are realizing that there’s more money in protecting sea turtles than there is in selling eggs.

“Towns based on protecting sea turtles are towns that are transformed,” continued Brad. SEE Turtles partners with those whose work they know intimately. One of the partners is RED Sustainable Travelin Baja California, Mexico. The organization is a community based tourism company comprised of fishermen who were once turtle poachers. They are now running a turtle business. They take people out, camp out in Magdalena Bay island, catch turtles, tag them, collect data and release them. “Whales in Baja head back up north and people stop visiting. We want to promote year round tourism.”

In 2011, SEE the Wild was born, and it offers conservation travel to protect other animals. Whether you can give a dollar or take a week off to go on a volunteer trip, you will be helping make a difference. To learn more visit:www.SEEturtles.org and www.billionbabyturtles.org.

Published on NBC Petside on April 5, 2013

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