Not long ago, I met an impressive young woman: Kembly Jazmín Bejarano Montero is only 24 years old and looks like a petite little girl – however, talking to her, one realizes her deep insights into nature and life. After growing up in Pérez Zeledón, she studied Sustainable Tourism and worked in several ecological projects, inter alia on a permaculture farm and in reforestation programs. This year, she ended up in a very special venture: In Carate, a tiny village in the midst of nature, on the southern edge of the Osa Peninsula, she lives in a house together with 8 other volunteers, and helps to protect the eggs deposited by turtles on the beach during the rainy season. In a very interesting interview, Jazmín explained to me why this project is so special to her.
Could you please describe the turtle project in Carate with one or two sentences?
This is a conservation and educational project which focuses energy and efforts in education for the local people, conservation of endangered turtle marine species and an alternative option of income for community members during the “green season”.
Why are sea turtles endangered in Costa Rica?
Sea turtles are mostly endangered because of humans. Suffocation because of plastic waste in the ocean and beaches, irresponsible fishing practices, people stealing eggs from the beach are just 3 examples of human impacts on marine ecosystems. Dogs are also a problem. We encourage dog owners to keep an eye on their dogs while being at the beach because they love to eat turtle eggs.
When was the turtle project brought into being?
This place lacks a management category by the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Telecommunications (MINAET), so some people from the Carate community concerned about the future of these species, started to protect nests about 10 years ago up to the present date.
What is the aim of the project?
Our long term goal is to increase the number of sea turtles that nest on the Osa Peninsula. At the same time, we want to reduce predation and poaching through an efficient and consistent education program in the community. Also, we want to involve the local community in the participation of conservation and environmental protection of sea turtles, and extend our efforts to the Pacific Ocean around the Osa Peninsula.
What are the volunteers’ tasks?
Basically, morning patrols either to Carate beach or Río Oro beach for data collection, night patrols with MINAE and local people , shifts taking care of the hatchery, relocation and exhumation of nests, liberation of baby turtles, signs making, activities with kids, beach clean ups on Saturdays, tree planting, cooking and daily house cleaning. They also participate in recycling workshops and they did a really good job collaborating for the puppet show at the last Turtle Festival here at Carate. The two main ideas are to provide them tools in order to thrive and learn from experiencing the insides of the “Osa living style” and making them part of solutions by getting to know how to take care and being part of wildlife.
How many volunteers live in the casa tortuga on average and where are they from?
The maximum number of people that fit into Casa Tortuga (editor’s note: name of the volunteer house) is 8. Mostly, the volunteers are from Germany, a few are from Austria, France and Costa Rica.
What are the advantages of Carate as location?
Carate is part of the “hot spot”. Serving as a bridge between wildlife refuge areas, plus, being a gate to Corcovado National Park is pretty much an advantage. Carate’s location is strategic from any point of view. This is a place for unplugging yourself from the unnecessary, but to connect with nature. We are far enough to call it jungle, but we have got a local airport, “colectivo” transportation from Puerto Jiménez, pretty basic facilities and lots of flora and fauna. Carate is a real example of Costa Rica without artificial ingredients.
When is the turtle season and how many turtles come to the beach for egg deposition at its height?
It depends on the specie. The Lora mostly arrives between September and late November, then the Green & Carey turtle generally come from February to April and the Leather Back turtle is pretty rare to observe, but it could be expected to arrive in a similar season as the Green turtle. During these days that are the high lora turtle season, we have observed 60 turtles 3 nights ago.
Is there something that distinguishes your turtle station from others in Costa Rica?
Our work base is the community. Starting with COTORCO (Corcovado´s Turtle Conservation group) which functions with community members. This project exists because of the community and all the other collaborations from outside are also determined by the compromise of all community members involved on the maintenance of the hatchery and patrols. Planet Coservation´s volunteer station also focuses energy on creating good relations with the community in order to make a real connection between the objectives of the project and its development hand by hand with the people.
Do most of the locals look upon the projects favorably or have there been some negative reactions, too?
There have been some negative reactions from past experiences with other organizations before we got to the area. Since Planet Conservation arrived to Carate, the idea was to support COTORCO´s program in any way possible and also to create our own relationships with the community by serving as collaborators, respecting their ideas and by giving constructive feedback.
Since when have you been participating in the turtle project?
This is a relatively new project, at least for Planet Conservation. We started at the beginning of August, getting ready for October (peak month of turtle nesting) and we finish the 2013 cycle on the first week of December.
What appealed most to you about joining this project?
It was a cocktail of elements, but basically, the idea of immersing me in such a wild and natural environment while contributing with the preservation of turtles. I found it as an awesome way of thriving on life while learning from the greatest master, Mother Nature.
How can I apply for volunteering in your project and what’s the minimum time of volunteering?
There are two main ways to be part of the volunteer program. You should contact Planet Conservation ([email protected]) or visit our office in San Isidro, Pérez Zeledón or contact COTORCO (http://cotorco.org/?page_id=2414) .
What can I personally do to help protect sea turtles when I visit the beach?
Everyone is welcome to come over and help. We are closing the hatchery soon for this period, but this project is basically from local people working together in order to sustain the hatchery labors and patrolls. Everybody can come to the hatchery and talk to the person in charge by that moment and see in which way he or she can collaborate.
Another very important way to collaborate in the protection of sea turtles is by being responsable with the waste management in our own houses. Small pieces of plastic can easily sofocate turtles because they see this as food.
Another really cool way to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and help out with the turtles and other species is by organizing beach clean ups with friends.
For further information:
Read past articles about sea turtles:
Article written by Eva-Maria Angerl