Wednesday, March 5, 2014

MCAF issues funds to protect leatherback turtles in Costa Rica

This post is the first in a series on projects supported by the Aquarium’s Marine Conservation Action Fund (MCAF). Through MCAF, the Aquarium supports researchers, conservationists and grassroots organizations all around the world as they work to address the most challenging problems facing the ocean.   

Nesting leatherback sea turtle

For more than 20 years, the organization WIDECAST (Wider Carribbean Sea Turtle Network) has worked tirelessly to protect sea turtles while also educating and engaging communities in their conservation efforts. Over the past few years, MCAF has supported WIDECAST with several grants for sea turtle nesting beach protection programs in Costa Rica. Most recently, MCAF helped support the continuation of WIDECAST’s vital efforts as their team worked to recover from a terrible tragedy. In May of 2013, poachers murdered one of WIDECAST’s biologists, Jairo Moira Sandoval, while he was monitoring leatherback turtle nests on Moin Beach in Costa Rica.

WIDECAST biologist Jairo Mora Sandoval was tragically killed by poachers on May 31, 2013. Photo: WIDECAST

In the aftermath of this horrible event, WIDECAST shut down operations on Moin Beach. The team was dedicated to continuing their turtle conservation work, now with police protection, on the other beaches they monitor in Costa Rica. Unfortunately, due to Jairo’s murder, more than 150 volunteers who had committed to help WIDECAST during the upcoming nesting season cancelled their plans. Volunteers play a vital role in WIDECAST’s turtle nest protection program. Without their help, many nests of highly endangered sea turtles would be vulnerable to poachers, predators and erosion. Wanting to ensure the continued protection of the turtles, WIDECAST applied to MCAF for emergency funds to hire additional staff to monitor Pacuare Beach, the most important leatherback-nesting site in Costa Rica. Recognizing WIDECAST’s urgent need, and their successful history as an MCAF grantee in 2011 and 2012, MCAF issued funding to support the continuation of their turtle conservation work.

Along with continuing to protect the turtle nests, WIDECAST has been working to effect reform in the wake of Jairo’s death. The organization wants to ensure that the Costa Rican government sustains their currently heightened focus on the security of environmental protection workers. WIDECAST and Jairo’s family are also committed to making sure that his dedication to the turtles will not be forgotten. Recently, one of Jairo’s favorite places, the Gandoca Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge, was renamed in his honor.

Learn more about the Marine Conservation Action Fund (MCAF). 

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