Equipo Tora Carey (ETC) is an NGO working in Costa Rica to mobilise and empower local communities to help reduce the destruction of coastal marine habitats and species. ETC use a combination of science, education and conservation to work with and raise awareness amongst local communities of threats to key species such as turtles, sharks and parrots. Their approach has involved the development of a sustainable tourism operation with local employment, beach patrols, marine science research and education of the youth.
ECT is located in El Jobo, a small community made up of mainly subsistence fishermen in northwest Costa Rica. The region is extremely rich in biodiversity and has recently become well-known for kite surfing, attracting many tourists each year and undergoing heavy development.
The poaching and wildlife trade problem
Species affected Hawksbill Turtle Eretmochelys imbricate , Olive Ridley Turtle Lepidochelys olivacea , Yellow-naped Amazon parrot Amazona auropalliataProducts in trade
The Hawksbill turtle is commercially exploited for its shell as well as other products, including leather, oil, perfume, and cosmetics.
All turtle eggs are vulnerable to poaching for consumption.
The yellow parrot is threatened by illegal chick extraction for the pet trade.
Overview of the problem
Turtle eggs are often poached by local residents due to the financial opportunity involved.
The anti-IWT initiative
ECT have implemented a multi-faceted program to ensure the protection of sea turtle and parrot populations against the effects of IWT.
Fisherman patrol the beaches to ensure that turtle nests remain unharmed, which deters poachers from stealing eggs. Once eggs have been laid they are moved to safe sites where it is difficult for poachers to find them. Patrollers play an invaluable role and are incentivised through financial rewards from local businesses.
In addition, a large local hotel pays the wages of two ECT patrollers to avoid any hatchlings accidentally crawling into their swimming pool.
Volunteers also patrol the yellow parrot habitat and perform bird counts in order to educate and raise awareness.
The ETC runs a children’s club, known as “Environmental Protectors” to educate on matters related to the conservation of coastal marine resources, sustainable practices and other similar topics.
Strengthening disincentives for illegal behaviour
Increasing incentives for wildlife stewardship
Improving education and awareness
Has the initiative made a difference?
Since the implementation of patrols for the yellow parrot there have been years with no stolen chicks. Similarly, efforts from the beach patrollers has greatly reduced the number of turtle nests poached by locals. The integration of local fisherman and their families into ECT activities has brought additional income.
Community engagement has particularly made a difference to the children involved in the education program. The children are excited by conservation and are developing an environmental ethic, with many students emerging as passionate ocean advocates. Before ETC’s presence, children were far less concerned with environmental issues and the program shows the importance of educating the youth as key to successful conservation.
What works and why
The founder of ECT worked for years to build an effective relationship with local fishermen in the area and to teach them about the importance of turtles to ocean ecosystems and to present them with an alternative form of income. As part of this ECT worked with the local fishermen to develop a strategy for protecting turtle eggs.
What doesn’t work and why
ECT is led by non-Costa Ricans and it has been a challenge to develop positive relationships with all local residents, who can be weary of strangers and who have an established way of life. Incidents where residents pretend not to understand foreign speakers and where they ignore recommendations from scientists are not uncommon. It is believed this stems from local pride but may also be the result is mistrust in the government and NGOs.
Organisers, donors and partners
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