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Suriname Leatherback Turtle Conservation Project
LEATHERBACK SEA TURTLES AT RISK
Suriname, formerly Dutch Guiana, is situated on the northeast coast of the South-American continent, between the Republic of Guyana and French Guiana. In addition to a well preserved wildlife heritage, Suriname offers a rich diversity of Creole, Amerindian, East Indian, Indonesian, African, Chinese and colonial culture.
Suriname with its 200 miles of Caribean beach, and neighboring French Guiana have the largest nesting population in the Western Atlantic of leatherback turtles, representing 40% of the world population of Leatherbacks. The estimated number of nesting leatherbacks is from 1545 to 5500 females in Suriname. In 2001, 30,000 nests were counted. Green, olive ridley and hawksbill turtles also nest on the beaches.
Conservation Status & Threats:
Although all four species have been protected by law since 1954, a small legal harvest of leatherback eggs and green turtle eggs is allowed. With the lack of economic opportunities many local people have now turned to poaching excessive numbers of sea turtle eggs -- to be sold on nearby markets. As poaching grows, its negative effects on present and future nesting populations will become more evident. It is essential that steps be taken as soon as possible to reduce this poaching and reverse this trend in population decline.
Surinam Foundation for Nature Preservation, Stinasu is responsible for managing the Galibi Nature Reserve in Suriname. To address current threats to sea turtles and build capacity of the field staff and indigenous population, Oceanic Society is assisting Stinasu with training, building awareness, and fostering alternative ecologically sustainable livelihoods.
Conservation Research, Restoration and Capacity Building:
The Oceanic Society, in cooperation with the Surinam Foundation for Nature Preservation (STINASU), is conducting a sea turtle conservation program at the Galibi Nature Reserve in Suriname. The coastal area in and around the Galibi Nature Reserve is of international importance not only as a nesting site for green and leatherback turtles, but also for olive ridley turtles.
In 2008 with funding support from donors, Oceanic Society scientists Dr. Leslee Par and Dr. Mario Mota, are working with Stinasu on the following capacity building conservation activities:
- Update local research techniques and standardize data collection procedures to tie in with current regional and global research objectives and methodologies.
- Reduce sea turtle egg poaching and increase hatching success.
Oceanic Society is training Stinasu field staff and local community tour guides and operators in the scientific aspects of sea turtle biology, ecology, data collection and analysis. This effort will facilitate dialogue about the challenges of sea turtle conservation and opportunities for increasing local benefits through alternative sustainable livelihoods
Long-term research and monitoring is needed to better understand population size and trends at Galibi in order to address conservation management and restoration issues. To help protect sea turtles from poaching, local capacity building must be increased, and alternative livelihood opportunities established.
In order to send another team to Suriname in 2009, assistance is needed.
Sea Turtle Awareness & Environmental Education:
In cooperation with the grassroots ngo Santours, Oceanic Society is assisting with fostering sea turtle awareness by supporting field study trips of trainees and local schoolchildren to the Galibi nesting beach. In 2008, donor support allowed 20 young adults to be trained on integrating sea turtle conservation in modular curriculum. A field visit is an essential part of the training and provides the possibilities for first-hand observation of the challenges for conservation and management.
Wanshishia (Marijkedorp) is an Indigenous village with dominantly Arowak people, located near Albina. This village plays an important role in the illegal trafficking of sea turtle eggs. Educating schoolchildren of this village is seen as an important strategy to influence positive attitudes regarding sea turtle conservation.
In 2009, our goal is to bring schoolchildren of the Indigenous village of Wanshishia (Marijkedorp), located North of Albina, to visit the nesting beaches of Galibi as part of a sea turtle awareness and education project. Educational materials such as posters and manuals will be created that will serve as a basis for, awareness building future personnel training as well as teaching aids for school teachers and educators.They will be accompanied by the trainers from 2008 and members of the local women’s organization Hiamawa that took the initiative for this project.
Cost for 2009 Youth Sea Turtle Awareness: $1,000