23 July 2010

El Salvador Part 2

(Note: Over the next couple of months, we'll be posting updates from Josh Baugh, a student at DePauw University who is interning with FUNZEL, one of El Salvador's leading conservation groups. SEE Turtles has helped fund Josh's work. This is an edited post, for the full story, visit Josh's blog.)

To tell you a little more about San Diego and what I have actually been up to here thus far. During a typical day most of the work is done at night, so I will begin there. At around 7 it is getting dark here and we have dinner. After dinner I watch the telenovelas (soap operas) with them for a bit and drink another cup of coffee before Antonio and I head to the other part of the property where I live. Next to my room there is a little meeting area where the viveristas (hatchery workers Antonio, Necta and myself) hangout. As it gets later we migrate to our hammocks that hang in the adjacent hallway. Occasionally tortugueros will come in and chat before they go out to the beach during the early hours. Later during the night, after we sleep a bit in the hammocks, Necta and I head to the beach to walk and look for turtles. This usually falls between 10-1 depending on the weather and tide. 

After the walk we nestle back down in our hammocks and sleep until the tortugueros bring in eggs. This can occur anytime throughout the night and early morning. When this occurs Antonio fills out the information with the tortugueros and Necta and I take the eggs out to the hatchery after counting them. Some nights there are few eggs brought in and we get to sleep a lot but other nights there is a constant stream of eggs. Its good for conservation purposes but can be hard on the body so usually I will then wake up a little before 6 with the sun and proceed to stumble to my room to sleep for a few more hours in my bed. At around 8 I go to Antonio’s house and have breakfast. Typically then there is work to be done around the community that he could use a hand with so I offer my help. Another body to help work is pretty valuable here.

Antonio is the president of the river cooperative in San Diego (El Salvador) that is in charge of preparing the community for natural disasters involving the river. The river constantly needs work and so there is always something to be done. Whenever it rains, the river threatens the nearby farms and properties composed of the poorer population that don’t have the resources to protect themselves or their land. When it really rains during a tropical storm for example, the river rises and floods all of the farms. To make matters worse soon after a flood the mosquitoes prosper and people get sick as a result of the swarms. I have been told that they will carry malaria but I don’t know for sure. It is good that I take malaria medicine nonetheless! 

One day I helped them clear a log jam, perhaps one of the scarier things I’ve done thus far in El Salvador. No one wears shoes and when I tried to get in with mine at first they ensured me that it was a bad idea as they would get ruined or disappear with the current. After watching for a bit I crept into the muddy water shoeless and ready to jump the minute a snake or leech scathed any part of my body. Surprisingly, the bottom was sandy and the only real concerns were the occasional spiny tree (espina) or the current. Soon I got the hang of it and managed to be of help. The other main job that I have helped with is the construction of a hostel for volunteers that in the future can come and stay there, work in the hatchery, learn about turtles and go on excursions to the rest of the country. It has a lot of promise and the lady who owns it, Mary speaks English perfectly and is already very involved with the hatchery. She has been very kind to me and has allowed me to use her wfi, which is were I am sending this from. Additionally, she has invited me to do things with her family and has been all around extremely helpful. I actually went to her son’s house in San Salvador to watch the final game of the world cup. More to come on all of that later.

There is big storm blowing in so I need to get off of here. Another tropical depression/storm I have heard but first, other important news to know about my time in San Diego;

-I saw my first nesting female on Tuesday night, another Thursday night

-We had our first tortuguita (hatchling) yesterday, which I released (I have it on video)

-On July 16 we had our first full nest hatch. 51 in total!

-Today the 17th we have had two more nest hatch with 35 and 33 hatchlings!

*I hope the pictures help describe the hatchlings for now.

Thanks for reading!

19 July 2010

Latest update from El Salvador

(Note: Over the next couple of months, we'll be posting updates from Josh Baugh, a student at DePauw University who is interning with FUNZEL, one of El Salvador's leading conservation groups. SEE Turtles has helped fund Josh's work. This is an edited post, for the full story, visit Josh's blog.)

Sat, July 19th, 2010 (Part 1 of 2)

I arrived in San Diego Playa (not to be confused with San Diego, California) on Friday July 9th at around 7 am after leaving from Puerto Parada, the small port at the entrance of the Bahia de Jiquilisco, at around 1 pm on Wednesday. The trip took so long but not because of the distance, as you could cover much of Central America in that time by car. Rather, like any excursion I've been on here in Latin America, there are plenty of stops to make and when you get there isn’t nearly as important as what you manage to do and see along the way.

Irene, a girl around Aldo’s age (15 or 16), was most interested in what I was doing and so she choose to come and hangout with us before I left.  There next to the beach we all lounged around on a rancha (boat) looking up at the sky and the surrounding mountains. They all chattered over Aldo’s reggaton (mix of rap and pop music) coming from his phone, while I tried to take in the last bit of the island and its beauty. 9:30 soon passed and it became evident that Nefta’s belief that there would be a rancha was more of a hope than a reality.  It was not until 11:50 that a rancha finally came by but nonetheless, just in time to get me to Puerto Parada in time to meet Mike. I was only a few minutes late but it ended up not being a problem as Mike was at home there in the CODEPA office, and the adjacent restaurant. Before hitting the road to San Salvador we had a plate of the local shrimp and a coke while watching Spain play in the semifinal game against Alemania (Germany).

After catching half of the game we hit the road in order to save some time. Having not seen or really talked to Mike in quite a while, I had a great deal to tell him about the island and why I thought moving to San Diego Playa would be a good change. In actuality there was much that he hadn’t told me about the politics between organizations and the problems occurring that I might face. Yet, he did not know the extent of the issues so that drive proved to be very informative for the both of us and frankly really refreshing for me, to find out that there is a lot occurring there currently that is beyond my control (more info below). 

The next morning Mike left at 3:30 am for a meeting in Nicaragua so a lady for US AID, Carmen, came to pick me up. It was a bit of a tense morning as Mike, my one tried and true connection in the country was now gone for 10 days in another country, and I was relaying on a lady I had never meet. Yet, she showed up and that day proved to be really interesting as I got to see a lot of the central portion of the coast. After she picked me up at around 9 am, we spent the entire rest of the day going to beaches to talk to the hatchery workers about what sort of technical aspects that can improve in their hatchery. Additionally, I witnessed 3 different meetings she held with the tortugueros in the area as to whether they wanted the price they get paid for a dozen eggs to increase to $3 or to stay at $2.40. All agreed that it was best that it stay at $2.40 so that the US AID money would not run out as quickly because after it does they will want to take the eggs to the market and will be liable to be arrested.

One of the meetings was held in San Diego where I was going to be staying; yet she thought it would be best if I returned the next morning so that I could experience more of the beaches. I didn’t have a problem with that so after a quick introduction following the meeting we hit the road. After a final meeting that night in a nearby beach, Carmen and I were shown our rooms that a guy was kind enough to let us use for the night. It wasn’t much more than a mattress and a few walls, but I was out cold by 9:30 pm. That next morning at 6 we headed straight for San Diego where I meet Antonio again and after being shown my room Carmen left. To my surprise Antonio was much more welcoming than he had been the previous night in a business setting. He quickly made me feel at home by introducing me to his daughter and grandson that live with him and sitting down with me to a delicious breakfast.

Antonio is a bit of a legend in El Salvador I am told, as he was the first in the country to begin collecting eggs for conservation purposes. Eighteen years ago, he started his own hatchery here in San Diego by asking tortugeros, egg collectors, if they would donate a dozen or so to his hatchery. To put things in perspective, last year his hatchery released 92,000 olive ridley tortuguitas (hatchlings), making his hatchery one of the most productive in the country. Statistically however, only 1 out of every 1,000 will survive to reproduce and thus only some 92 of those will contribute in the future to the preservation of the species. Yet, it is needless to say that the work he is doing here is extremely valuable and commendable. * I believe, there is a great deal that I can learn from him concerning turtles and community-based conservation, so I may be staying in San Diego for a time.

In summary, U.S. AID who has the money behind the 1-year project has come into the area and essentially taken over the hatchery ignoring the local people who previously supported the hatchery and conservation of turtles when there wasn’t money. They have chosen not to work with the local organization, CODEPA, which led the previous turtle conservation projects in the area. It is needless to say that these local experts associated with CODEPA are furious that they have not been included. To many of them, I am a symbol of the foreigners that are now running the turtle projects from a far even though I do not actually work for any of those organizations, just with them. In the more than 3 weeks that I was there, I was just beginning to get the message across to the local people that I was simply a volunteer looking to study the turtles and aid the turtle conservation in the area in as well.

Additionally inhibiting the progress of turtle conservation in the area and my ability to be of help is the current economic situation on the island and really in all of El Salvador. We think that the economy is bad in the United States, well our gov. at least has the ability to aid its own people. Here the government is largely reliant on international organizations to come to their people’s rescue. Unfortunately, the people in the community of la Pirraya, where I lived, being that they are isolated, seem to be some of the last to get any aid. The resulting economic situation has created a tremendous pressure on the fishing industry in the bay, which was already suffering from overfishing. Seeing that nearly all of the families are composed of fishermen there is a real crisis at hand.

How is this related to turtles? Well a fisherman I am told is lucky to earn $5-10 a day from fishing, as there are fewer and fewer fish and they get less for their caught. Seeing that turtle eggs can sell for well over $3 a dozen at restaurants and when a single hawksbill turtle can lay well over 150 eggs, being a tortuguero can be very lucrative. For this reason, there are well over 200 tortugueros (egg collectors) on the island. For many of the people on the island, the money they earn that day is all they have to survive. With this sort of economic pressure, it is hard for a person quite reasonably to be concerned with turtles. The hatchery where I worked does in fact pay the collectors that bring the eggs to the hatchery but this money comes from U.S. AID who has to send a representative from the capital. The money they pay is not only below the market price, but it takes a week to come. For these reasons the collectors that do come to the hatchery are only those that have installed in them a sense of responsibility to the turtles. For the rest the economic factors prove to be overwhelming.

In my time on the island, we received 3 nests in total of which, 2 were carey or hawksbill, and the other golfina or olive ridley. Although, there hasn’t been a lot of nesting thus far in the season there should be many more eggs Mike, my American contact and a hawksbill researcher tells me. According to him, we should have half of the total eggs that are normally received in a single season by this time. The day I left on July 6 we had 2,136 huevos (eggs) in the hatchery and we had encountered zero turtles during our night walks. To put the stats into perspective, last year they had 60 hawksbills, 8 green turtles, and 850 olive ridleys. This year, in May there was 1 turtle and in June there were 6. It is needless to say that there are fewer turtles that are being reported or seen by the viveristas (hatchery workers) and more importantly, fewer eggs actually being brought into the hatchery. I believe this to be a result of fewer people reporting turtle sightings and fewer people being obligated to bring eggs to the hatchery. This quite simply is a result of fewer people working together on the project. Nefta, Moises and myself, the only ones working on the project, are not a sufficient force to monitor the turtle population, patrol the beach and run the hatchery.

Sadly, there were several conversations I was witness to between tortugueros and my fellow hatchery workers, in which the tortugueros would talk openly about seeing a turtle, meaning they had collected the eggs yet I hadn’t ever seen them at the hatchery. Nefta, Moises and I, slept at the hatchery nearly every night and were always there during turtle hours (8 pm-8 am) in the case that a tortuguero had eggs. Unfortunately, the tortuegeros were choosing to sell them on the market to be eaten. Why haven’t they been brought in? Well as I stated earlier and I hope is now more evident, the coalition of tortugueros led by CODEPA that was active in previous years is not functioning. Additionally, the police are not getting involved and therefore the tortugueros now aren’t obligated to have a card that says they are registered to take eggs. Instead, it is a free for all and given the economy and lack of organization/support for the hatchery, few eggs are being brought to the hatchery. The people with a true wealth of knowledge of the turtles in the area, I would see around as they would talk to us, but they were not helping at the hatchery or patrolling the beach at night, as the had in the past.

As you hopefully realize now, it is a complicated situation there on the Island of San Sebastian and really no place for an inexperienced volunteer student. San Diego is a good alternative where I can get more experience both working with people, getting to know the turtles and improving my Spanish. Here with my own space, good living conditions, and more experienced, organized and respected individuals to work with, I have the ability to grow personally. After some time here I hope I can return to la Pirraya in the Bahia de Jiquilisco. For now, it is good that I am here.

14 July 2010

Its All Reconnected, Redux

(Cross posted from HuffingtonPost)

A common question asked of scientists is how the oil spill will affect life in the Gulf.

My sense is that it will effect directly or indirectly, severely or slightly every single form of life in the Gulf, for many years to come. The air, the water, the sand, the mud, the microbes, the plankton, the marshgrass, the mangroves, the jellyfish, the oysters, the shrimp, the shorebirds, the turtles, the sharks, the redfish, the children, the fishermen, the chefs, the taxi drivers, the artists, the oil industry workers, the politicians. Every single bit and blob of life will be impacted. Save a few oil-eating microbes, no life will change for the better.

Some life will be killed immediately, others will suffer slowly. Some will move away, in search of food, in search of jobs. Some aren't able to move.

From a single hole, drilled into the bottom of the ocean 5000 feet underwater, gushes catastrophe.

The signature chemistry of the oil coming from the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon well, mixed liberally with the dispersant Corexit that has streamed into the ocean with it, can now be found on the shores of every Gulf state. It's in the bodies of thousands of species of sea life. It's in the mouths of hundreds of sea turtles. It's on the hands and feet and in the lungs of Texans, Louisianans, Mississippians, Floridians, Mexicans as well as all workers and visitors to the Gulf coast. The fact is we don't know exactly what that means for the health of those in harms way, or for the next generation. Testing on previous versions of Corexit mixed with oil indicate an additive effect. Together they're more toxic than alone. Previous studies suggest a whole range of ecocidal properties of this chemical soup, from the death of duck embryos to internal bleeding in humans.

A single error amplified and shared equally among individuals, bad apples, misinformed response teams, corrupt regulators, greedy executives, hypnotized politicians, misguided energy policies, and an oil-addicted society, has resulted in our nation's worst environmental disaster.

It's all connected. You've heard it before from ecologists, astronomers, physicists and metaphysicians alike. And the main reason so many thinkers from such diverse backgrounds find agreement on that point is this: everything is.

Each of us has used oil from the Gulf in a variety of joyful and productive ways. To visit grandma's house, to commute to work, to hold water, to make music or to save lives.

What we absolutely didn't have in mind at the time was disaster. My first hope is that one impact of the Gulf oil spill is that the very real line leading from our hands to the gas tank to the pump to the tanker to the rig in the middle of the ocean is somewhat brighter than before. And that that line now stretching from the rig, to the spill, to an asphalted salt marsh, to a dead industry, to a torn family is likewise clearer.

My other hope is that we can now see that all things are connected: us and nature and, unfortunately, oil. And there are much, much better ways to be connected.

07 July 2010

Staring Down the Dragon on Dependence Day

by Wallace J. Nichols for CNN iReports

iReport —
On the night of the Fourth of July, I flew into New Orleans.  I watched from above as fireworks sailed from below into the sky to celebrate Independence Day.

The young man from a small Louisiana coastal town sitting next to me said "I've never seen fireworks from above."

"Me neither."

"I've never been on a plane before this either," he added.

A few hours later I was back in the sky, this time flying above a different kind of fireworks. The kind that mourn our dependence.

Our small Cessna traced the coast of Louisiana and Mississippi, documenting the flow of oil and tar balls onto islands, wetlands, mangroves, beaches and the inadequacy of the bright yellow and orange booms floating here and there and more often than not, beachcast and twisted by the wind and waves.

One member of our team a government geologist studying the weathering of oil on seawater.  One member of our team a environmental toxicologist.  Our pilot, a NASA scientist herself.  And myself, a marine biologist in search of sea turtles.

Bonny skillfully skirted the edges of thunderclouds and positioned our plane wherever we wanted it.

Down the oily coast we flew.  Timbalier and Cat Islands, Grand Isle, the Mississippi River Delta, Chandeleur Islands.  None of these places, and so many others, will be themselves for a long time.

Then we turned offshore, for deep water.  Beneath us muddy water, oily water, oily muddy water.  Then the edge, a giant convergence, between deep blue and shallower oily water for as far as we could see.  There we found a school of forty cownose mantas, searching for food, traveling together.  Without a doubt they have all eaten oil.

We flew further offshore.  Closer to "ground zero," the site of the oil gusher and location of the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon.

I've spent my adult life working for the ocean, the endangered animals living in it, and the people who depend on it.  I've seen the wholesale destruction of species by commercial fishing, illegal hunting and the destruction caused by plastic pollution.  But none of that prepared me for this.

Our plane surveyed a path of the thousands of square miles of destroyed ocean habitat.  Then we descended a bit and flew over "ground zero", the site of the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon. A new platform has taken its place. A large flame of burning methane jetting from the side.  Ships worked the waters all around.  Bands of oil extended off into the distance, set off by the deep blue of the Gulf.

We were close. So close I could smell it.  The cockpit filled with fumes.  I breathed in the foul breath of the fire dragon.  We buzzed the beast, like a pesky fly.  Our small craft banked, circled back around for a closer look.  This time I held my breath.

I thought of the tragic loss of human lives that occurred just below me ten weeks prior.  I thought of the massive loss of animal life that's already happened and will unfold throughout this ocean for years to come.  I thought of the distraught fisherman who took his own life.  I thought of the people below, working to stop the flow of oil, working to burn the oil on the surface.  I thought about my daughters.  I thought ten million other things at the same time.  I felt like I was going to cry.  Somehow I didn't, but I raged inside silently.

Eventually, I could hold my breath no longer and I sucked in the breath of the fire dragon again.

I will think of the Deepwater Horizon every time I smell that smell.  Every time I pump gas into my tank, or ride my bike behind a truck on a busy street.  At airports and bus stops.  At BP, Exxon, or Chevron stations.  It will keep me going in this ocean revolution, our collective effort to slay the dragon.

Music: Alfonso Burgos, Seri elder, a tribe in Mexico with a deep connection to sea turtles.

02 July 2010

Supporting animal welfare on the Osa Peninsula

(Guest Post from SEE Turtles Traveler Judy Bradshaw, who came with us on a recent Costa Rica trip)

In May I volunteered for a sea turtle project in Costa Rica, but before I met the turtle group I traveled by myself for a week. I flew to San Jose where I spent a couple of days and then took Sansa airlines to Puerto Jiminez on the Osa Peninsula in SW Costa Rica and then took a pick-up over bumpy dirt roads for several miles to a remote, reasonably-priced, charming little lodge (Danta Corcovado Lodge) that was near Corcovado National Park that was filled with wild animals like pumas and tapirs and boa constrictors, among other things (monkeys and fer-de-lances). Jungle. I loved it. 

At the lodge I talked to a retired philosophy professor from the University of Delaware who knew Costa Rica and spoke English and Spanish. In the course of one of our numerous conversations, he told me that I should meet the Peace Corps volunteer who was stationed in La Palma, a nearby small town, because she was interested in helping the village dogs and cats, like I was and was despondent about their terrible condition, like I was.

And Laura was contacted, and she rode her bike to the lodge and we talked. She said that she thought that the people in her community were on the edge of a change in how they perceived their animals...one woman had asked her for flea powder for her dog...and many had observed some Americans with their animals who looked good. On the other hand, female puppies were thrown into the streets (a primitive form of birth control). She wanted to try a spay and neuter (castrado) clinic there and had talked to the vet in Puerto Jiminez who was willing to come out with his staff and do a one day gig. The local Catholic Church (now into birth control!!!) had donated a room.

The vet wanted about $15/animal and she thought the people could only afford about $4. I asked her how much she would need to do a one day clinic and she did some calculations and said $470. I told her I would give it to her. 

When I got home on May 17, I sent a check for the money to her parents in Colorado, and they put it in her account and she did all the work organizing and publicizing the clinic in La Palma. We saw it as promoting a change in consciousness about how animals were treated and also allowing the people to invest in their animals in a small way and make them more valuable to them. It was about changing perspective and relationship. I thought of this as an experiment equivalent to a crap shoot. We were both very excited...not knowing if anyone would sign up for it.

Here are excerpts from her emails to me:

May 27 - My parents got the check, thank you so much. I wanted to give you a quick update. The clinic will be on June 9th and as of a week ago all the appointments were filled. Between 20 and 25 animals will be spayed or neutered. The response has made me believe that it was both travel and financial barriers were the reason for the over population problems. As soon as people heard that they would be able to afford it and that it was close they all jumped on board. Hopefully I'll be able to plan another clinic in the future. Thanks so much for your help and I'll keep you updated.

On June 9 I thought of La Palma at least a hundred times.

June 16
The response was absolutely HUGE! I had people will appointments arrive on time along with a huge number of people who just showed up. In total we were able to spay or neuter 20 animals and we had to turn 8 away. The vet is coming back next Wednesday to spay and neuter 15 more. Also, on the day of the clinic someone brought their dog who had been attacked by a wild animal and was bleeding severely. The vet was able to save the dogs life after 2 hours. Had the vet not been in La Palma that day, the dog would have suffered a slow death, as it was, it's life was saved (I have pics of this too which I will send just as soon as I can access a computer and have my camera). It was incredible. The entire day I was sharing I love my pet stories with Costa Ricans and they really showed me that it was their lack of access, not love that had prevented them from controlling the pet population. I will send you a breakdown of how the money was spent (there were some people who could not afford the medications for after the surgery so I covered it for them so the animals would be taken care of). I'll write you more tomorrow, I just wanted to let you know that everything went great and in the end 35 animals will be fixed. I can't tell you excited all the people are and I can see a great future for the animals.

June 17
Okay, so here are some numbers: We were able to spay 20 animals, 10 female dogs, 2 female cats, 2 male cats and 6 male dogs. The donation sponsored 13 dollars worth of antibiotics for a family that could not afford the medications.

I did almost all of the promotions by posting some flyers and word or mouth. I went around and told people that I saw with animals about the clinic and the word began to spread. I had lots of people calling me and made some appointments and had walk-ins as well. We held the clinic in the Salon of the Catholic church where they open it up for free use to the community.

Here was the set up, for each animal $13 was used to supplement the cost which is $17. After talking further with the vet we decided that people would be able to pay $4 per castration plus medications which was also around $4. By doing this we will be able to spay or neuter 15 more animals covering for each of them the $13. Last week we used a total of $269.97 and will use the rest of the donation this Wednesday.

The vet was exhausted but so happy after the clinic. He was able to save a dog from animal attack wounds and spay or neuter 20 animals. There was such a high demand I think he was really surprised. We have talked about him coming back once a month for the next year (at least) that I'm in La Palma and I'm hoping that things will be going so well that he will continue to hold the clinics and see animals in La Palma. I think it was the beginning of a really good thing.

I would absolutely love it if you could find more funding for more clinics. I have seen that a little really goes a long way. $269 was able to help 20 animals, in the US it seems like that's the cost for just one animal. Also, I think it is a big step in people beginning to value their animals. As it is now there are just so many everywhere that the attitude is who cares, there's always another. I feel like this could change that (hopefully). Please tell your friends that this was a huge success, people came to clinic and shared with each other and me how much they love their animal and all of the things they do for their animal. They were able to buy pet food and flea medications and soaps. It was really fun to see old men with their cats talking about the cat sleeping in the bed with him and older ladies with their little dogs talking to them in funny voices. As the animals were waking up the owners were so concerned and huddled over their animal whispering to them and petting them. It was really sweet to see the animals being so cared for.

Again, thank you and if any of your friends are interested in helping please let me know, I would love to make more clinics happen. I have more info and plan to sit down and write a blog about the event as soon as I have some time (I hope tomorrow).

So that's the story, and here we are now.

I am doing the fundraiser.

This is what I want:

Five dollars. $5.
If you want to send more we would force ourselves to take it.

Here is how you can get it to me:

1. A check made out to "Castrado Clinic"

Or, if you are too embarrassed to make out a check for such a project with such a name:

2. Cash

You can send your contributions to:

Judy Bradshaw
3722 SE Woodward Street
Portland, Oregon 97202

Your reward: nothing. It's not tax deductible.

Your reward is nothing...and no one will ever thank you except me and Laura and the people of La Palma and the female animals. (The males will take a little longer to come around...after they find out their lives are happier without compulsions and infected wounds.) 

I did consider running an "adopt a spay" campaign in which Laura would take a photo of your animal with its legs spread and its private parts exposed which you could frame and hang on your wall as evidence of your generosity...an idea I now find to be insensitive. I mean how would you feel if this were done to you? And these poor animals have never been exposed to the idea of spaying and neutering, unlike our own animals who hear it through the grapevine of those who have gone before. The La Palma animals are pioneers. We have to allow them their dignity. 

If you decide to mortgage your house to support the clinic though I am sure we can work something out with the Catholic Church so your time in purgatory will be reduced. 

So...no photo. I'm sorry. You get nothing.

So that's the pitch. We want money.

The animals save us, and now it is our time to save them.
You can do this, yes you can.
We can do this, yes we can.


Judy Bradshaw

01 July 2010

El Salvador Field Updates

(Note: Over the next couple of months, we'll be posting updates from Josh Baugh, a student at DePauw University who is interning with FUNZEL, one of El Salvador's leading conservation groups. SEE Turtles has helped fund Josh's work.  Follow along on his blog.)

Upon arriving in Puerto Parada, the one port that launches boats into the Bahia de Jiquilisco I came to realize that soon I would be on my own without mike to translate for me or talk on my behalf. The time needed to come however. There in the port we parked at the codepa office (the local conservation organization that I work with) in order to give a gift to Cristobel, the president, who just had a baby. As we sat and talked with here and introduced her to me she quickly offered for me to live in her house on the island because in here eyes it was a rip off for me to live in a cabana where they aren't giving me the $5 a day discount they originally promised to do. Seeing that she had just had a baby however, she explained how she wouldn’t be on the island but her husband, Nefta and Aldo were living there. Nefta who works at the hatchery and is a fisherman was ok with this she said and so I agreed to stay with them. After eating some lunch there at the office, Chili, Mike, myself alongside Rene and Manuel who work for Codepa went out in the bay to show me around the office/dormitory at the hatchery. Just riding in the boat (rancha) I was able to get a glimpse of the beauty of the bay area. Stopping at the hatchery, Maricio spent awhile walking and talking with me about what is important to consider when running a hatchery.

After our tour we came back to the office where, I was introduced to Nefta whom I was to go stay with. Mike fortunately, introduced me but still I could no understand a word that he said. The dialect takes time to get used to I hear and gets thicker with age as I have noticed. Yet, I got on a boat with him nonetheless and soon we were on our way to the island. The first thing he asked me on the boat was could I drive a boat. To him it was ridiculous that at my age I didn’t know how and so he quickly took it upon himself to teach me and I drove the rest of the way once we got into open water. Once I got onto the island I was quite surprised just how rustic the conditions were and just how completely oriented to fishing a village could be. When I got inside the house, and was told just to put my stuff next to the loveseat I thought ok that’s fine but I was unaware that I was going to be living quite literally in the living room. It is amazing how much they much to welcome me despite truly having the space for me. I don't know many people that would be welcoming to me living on their living room couch for two months. I soon found out however, that most nights I can go with Nefta to the hatchery where they sleep in hammocks and walk after it rains to look for turtles.  Also, if they see a tortuguero (egg harvester) they try to see that he donates some of the eggs even though he is not forced to do so at the moment.

Since that Sunday night I have been living at their house and have slept in a hammock all but last night during which I slept in a tent on the floor of the hatchery so that I would not get eaten alive by mosquitoes like I have been the last few nights. As of right now my body is covered in bites. Other than that all is well! Right now I am at this meeting for all the directors of hatcheries in the eastern portion of the country. I have learned so much today and just thus far. My Spanish is coming along ok but that has proven to be the biggies problem outside of the bugs. All the other aspects of living in primitive conditions I have been able to deal with. More to come on the meeting and other news!