The trail back from the beach was pure mud. Most of us walked barefoot, pulling ourselves along by grasping tree limbs and walking partly on roots, and simply skating down small hills like mud surfers. Unfortunately, we had no time to rest and clean up fully, because we were already late to the captive turtle release, where hundreds of people, the Ecuadorean media, and government officials waited.
Able to stay awake only due to the tagging-fueled adrenaline rush, we rocketed down to Valdivia, a small coastal town that is home to the aquarium housing the juvenile hawksbill.
Marcela Aguiñaga, the Minister of the Environment
of Ecuador, the mayor of Valdivia, Ecuador, and
Andres Baquero, Director of Equilibrio Azul. The
three carried the small hawksbill, newly christened
'Valdivia' after the town, down to the water's edge to
be released with a satellite transmitter attached.
Valdivia was accidentally caught by local fishermen
but was rescued and rehabilitated in the Valdivia
Aquarium. © CI/Photo by Bryan Wallace
The Equilibrio Azul team led an informal education session with local schoolchildren and community members, as well as several people from various press outlets. The Minister of the Environment and her entourage arrived just in time to learn a bit about the transmitter technology and sea turtle biology. Gamely, the Minister stuck the transmitter onto the hardening mound of epoxy on the turtle’s back: that little hawksbill was about to become the focus of a nationwide media campaign.
The Minister, Andrés, and the mayor of Valdivia carried the small turtle to the ocean’s edge, with the people of Valdivia chanting ‘Viva Valdivia!’ which now referred both to the town and the newly christened hawksbill that was about to be returned to the sea. The audience cheered loudly as two men from the community caringly carried the turtle past the breakers and into the ocean.
That day, we also delivered a letter directly to the Minister that described several key recommendations to advance sea turtle conservation in Ecuador, which she received gratefully and followed by sharing remarks in which she offered the support of the Ministry of the Environment in conservation efforts.
|A crowd of hundreds of people, from school children, to residents of |
Valdivia, to national media and dignitaries, huddled around the turtle
Valdivia and her handlers as they made their way to the sea. © CI/Photo by
The rest of the trip included public presentations and panel discussions for the local community as well as for a university in Quito, more beach time, more discussions of survey methods and nesting data, and (just a little) down time to relax.
Over the course of the last 48 hours, we caught sea turtles in the water, were soaked by all-night rainfall, deployed two turtles with transmitters and deliver a workshop to members of the local community. Even Ecuador’s Minister of the Environment helped tag a turtle on the trip. It was exhausting, but exhilarating stuff.
But the realization that in about one year, the status of sea turtle conservation in mainland Ecuador had gone from non-existent to nationally and internationally recognized, put a big smile on everyone’s face.
– Reported by Bryan Wallace
<< Previous | Index >>