The Center for Research and Conservation of Sea Turtles (CICTMAR) conservation education programs fosters a conservation ethic surrounding marine environmental issues.
Hedelvy Guada has dedicated her life to protecting sea turtles at their nesting grounds on the Paira Peninsula, on the far eastern edge of Venezuela.
Since 1999, Guada and members of the local community have been protecting female leatherback, loggerhead, green, and hawksbill, sea turtles, as they make their way to the nesting sites. Once the eggs are laid, they are transferred to fenced hatcheries built higher on the beaches to protect them from high tides and poachers. Once the turtles start to hatch, they make their way to the sea to begin their difficult journey.
The Study and Protection of Nesting Sites
The nursery operation raises 5,000 to 10,000 hatchlings per year. In addition to protecting the nesting sites, CICTMAR has been conducting research on the nesting females for many years. 80 to 120 of the nesting females are tagged and measured, so long-term studies may be done on growth rates and to help monitor conditions during the 364 days of the year the turtles are at sea.
Local Community Engagement Makes Sea Turtle Conservation Possible
Guada understands that the local community must be actively involved in all aspects of the turtle’s conservation. Local assistants are trained and given responsibility for the monitoring of the nesting females and the protection of the nest sites and the nursery. Ecotourism has been promoted to involve the local communities in the efforts to protect the turtles and their habitat. Equally important for the protection of the sea turtles, is the efforts made to educate local teachers, politicians and all those who interact with the turtle’s habitat. Guada spends hundreds of hours each year teaching others to appreciate and protect the sea turtles. Greater efforts are needed to protect these endangered animals and with greater financial support, Hedelvy and her organization will be able to expand her efforts.