A Paso Pacifico ranger patrols the beach near Ostional, Nicaragua, on the lookout for illegal poaching. Photo by Hal Brindley
Turtle poaching in Central America is not a new issue, but some poachers have recently become even more emboldened to carry out this illegal activity. The current political unrest in Nicaragua has only made the situation worse for endangered sea turtles, as critical resources continue to get diverted to other issues.
Ventura’s own Paso Pacifico has long been at the forefront of protecting sea turtles and their eggs, and developed the award-winning InvestEGGator decoy egg with GPS tracking in 2016 to deter poachers who use the cover of night for protection.
But a new threat emerged recently, as poachers have been seen wading into the water and carrying out nesting sea turtles in broad daylight. One poacher was even captured on video carrying a helpless sea turtle over his shoulder during a busy weekend at a beach in Nicaragua.
Soldiers typically patrol this protected beach and wildlife refuge during the nesting season, but for an unknown reason, soldiers were not present when the viral video was taken. Paso Pacifico does not have jurisdiction to patrol this particular beach, but they are stepping up efforts to increase their presence in nearby areas. Thanks to the power of social media, the Paso Pacifico team was able to quickly spread the word and generate solutions for this urgent issue.
Just days after this disturbing early-August video went viral, Paso Pacifico raised enough funds to hire two new rangers to monitor beaches in hopes of deterring illegal poaching, and the goal is to continue adding to that number. The new rangers began their assignments patrolling Nicaraguan beaches this October.
“We have been so encouraged by the response we’ve received from our dedicated supporters,” said Paso Pacifico Founder and Executive Director Dr. Sarah Otterstrom. “It’s reassuring to know that others in our community, both locally and across the globe, are as concerned about this heartbreaking behavior as we are. Thanks to the generosity of SEE Turtles for matching funds, we have more than doubled our original fundraising goal in a matter of days, but our work isn’t done. The more money we raise, the more rangers we can hire to protect these threatened sea turtles.”
Paso Pacifico already has a presence on many beaches in the Paso del Istmo region of Nicaragua, but is looking to expand their reach in light of recent events. For every $5,000 raised, Paso Pacifico is able to hire an additional turtle ranger to monitor Nicaraguan beaches.
The mission of Paso Pacifico is to restore and protect the Pacific Slope ecosystems of Mesoamerica. These habitats include the endangered dry tropical forest, mangrove wetlands, and eastern Pacific coral reefs. By working with local communities, landowners, and partner organizations, Paso Pacifico restores and protects the habitats that form building blocks for wildlife corridors. Paso Pacifico also lends its expertise to help migratory wildlife on the Central Coast of California, including threatened migratory birds and whales that over winter in Mesoamerica. Through its high-impact programs, Paso Pacifico has established itself as one of the world’s leading biodiversity conservation organizations.