Turtles back from the brink in El Salvador
Thanks to the Hawksbill Conservation Project in El Salvador these sea turtles are being helped back from the brink of extinction and guests are welcome from all over the world to see the work being done to save these fascinating creatures.
Perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean lies El Salvador’s largest coastal estuary, the Bahia Jiquilisco, consisting largely of undeveloped, mangrove-lined canals and inlets.
This biosphere has recently been discovered as the home to over 90% of the Eastern Pacific’s hawksbill turtle population, previously presumed to be on the verge of extinction. As a result, the Eastern Pacific hawksbill Initiative (ICAPO) was established in 2008, to help promote the ongoing survival of these hawksbill turtles, through a variety of conservation projects and awareness-raising campaigns across the region.
The hawksbill turtle has been exploited by humans from as far back as the fifth Century BC, when they were commonly regarded as delicacies. The hawksbill is the only species of sea turtle with a brightly coloured keratinous shell, and they are further characterised by their tapered heads ending in a small beak, as well as three post-orbital scales which help differentiate them from other sea turtle species. This distinctive and beautiful hawksbill shell is the primary source of the tortoiseshell material used around the world to create sunglasses, pennants, combs and artisanal goods. The strong black market for this resource is the greatest threat facing the species today, and why hawksbill turtles are still critically at risk of extinction.Typically found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world, the largest concentration of hawksbill turtles can be found in Bahia Jiquilisco, El Salvador. Here, the Hawksbill Conservation Project carries out nightly patrols along the beach to ensure the protection of these turtles’ buried eggs. The staff and volunteers of the project also work to relocate a number of these eggs into dedicated, water-side hatcheries to enable them to hatch in safety. After the eggs have been in incubation for 45 to 60 days the hatchlings are then safely released into the wild. Reburying the eggs at the hatcheries ensures the maximum number of hawksbill turtles are able to survive this perilous time in their lives. To date the project has protected more than 300 nests, producing more than 33,500 hawksbill hatchlings.
The project welcomes guests from all over the world to visit Bahia Jiquilisco and take part in the conservation effort. With opportunities ranging from half-day tours to two-week-long stays, visitors are able to participate in a variety of activities from watching the hawksbills hatch, to helping release baby turtles into the wild, to tagging grown turtles to help build knowledge of the breed and aid further conservation efforts.Jiquilisco Bay is El Salvador’s largest coastal estuary and was named a RAMSAR wetland in 2005, as well as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2007. Consisting of 637 square kilometres of stunning, mangrove-lined inlets and canals and 50 kilometres of coastline, Jiquilisco Bay’s untouched beauty is also home to an abundance of coastal marine life and several fishing villages, making it the ideal adventure destination for the true environmental enthusiast.
British tour operator ‘El Salvador Revealed’ specialises in creating individually-tailored travel experiences to the region, which can incorporate the ICAPO conservation experience within both single-destination trips and multicentre adventures. The team is able to use their extensive knowledge of the country to create inspiring itineraries, including everything from flights and hotels to ground transfers and interactive excursions, for your next great escape. Contact the team to start planning your next holiday on www.elsalvadorrevealed.co.ukr 01932 424252.