La Tortuga Feliz

Trip Start Feb 01, 2006
Trip End May 01, 2006

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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Saturday, April 8, 2006

La Tortuga Feliz is a non-profit organization whose dual aims are the protection of sea turtles and the improvement of the living conditions of the local inhabitants.

What follows is a blurb from their website...

The local inhabitants generate income by cooperating in the project; they guard beaches together with the volunteers (us), act as tour guides for eco tourists and assist with the various agricultural activities. By helping to generate an income for the locals, the project hopes to take away the necessity for them to poach the turtles and again by working in partnership with them, seek to establish an ideal environment for the turtles to lay their eggs.

The project is situated on the Caribbean beach of Costa Rica, 1 km north of the mouth of the Pacuare River. It covers 10 km of coastline and has a total surface of 800 hectares. The beach is part of the 50 km stretch between Tortuguero National Park and the harbor of Limón. The area is not only unique in every way, but is also famous as being the site where the four largest spieces of Marine turtles (Leatherback, Hawksbill, Loggerhead and the Green Turtle) come to lay their eggs.

Poachers, fishing nets and other threats are the cause of an alarming decline in turtles being born on this beach. In particular the 10 km covered by the project is in danger, for it has no protection whatsoever.

A Dutch guy, Paul Lepoutre, took the initiative in April 2004 to establish a Biological Reserve here. His approach is rather unique and has the special attention and support of various organizations around the world, most notably the World Wildlife Fund, which was one of the reasons we chose this as one of our volunteer projects.

The project "Latortugafeliz", in which all 45 inhabitants of the area participate has three main activities: .

The volunteer project...Volunteers help with the realization of the project objectives by patrolling the beaches together with the local inhabitants, supporting the agricultural activities (mowing, sowing, digging and harvesting) and in the off-season prevent illegal fishing and hunting. Constructing activities (for example new cabinas) and overall creating the ideal environment for turtles to lay there eggs are crucial to the success of the project. The volunteers are accompanied by the local inhabitants.

Ecotourism...The most famous and therefore the touristy area for the observation of turtles in Costa Rica, Tortuguero, cannot handle the number of tourists anymore. The area is getting polluted etc. Travel agencies therefore look for new locations where tourists can observe turtles. Latortugafeliz can offer the unique location. In cooperation with the local inhabitants we can offer guided tours through the jungle and turtle observations. These activities generate money which can be invested in the project and indirectly in the living conditions of the locals.

Organic agriculture...One of the project activities is organic agriculture, cultivating products for the European and American food and pharmaceutical markets. The local inhabitants are participants in these agricultural activities and therefore support these in all facets, such as mowing, sowing, digging and harvesting.

And here we are working at both the hatchery and on the beach to protect the leatherbacks. More about our experience with the turtles when we get back to San Jose!
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