Turtle-Oriented Eco-Tourism Springs Up in Central America

The Los Angeles Times recently had a rare piece on a Panamanian eco-activist committed to saving the sea turtles, whose numbers dwindled to 80 last year, from hundreds in the 1980s. Arcelio Fuentes raises sea turtles in a beach-side incubator that he built himself on the Pacific Coast, supported by environmental donors.

According to the Times, Fuentes' crusade is one of dozens of grass-roots rescue operations in communities in Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. The threatened sea creatures have become an increasingly important way for people to connect to their heritage, environment and economic opportunities through eco-tourism. The main threats to the turtles are poachers who sell the eggs for 25 cents a pop in Panama, as well as dogs, birds and other predators.

There are now community-based turtle preservation projects in 40 nations, said Karen Eckert, a Duke University marine biologist and director of the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network in Beaufort, N.C.

The Panamanian government has declared several beach communities special marine reserves, making them off-limits to fishing, shrimping and development. Costa Rica and El Salvador have similar community-based initiatives to save turtles and other endangered species. However, Fuentes and other activists are up against strong pressures to develop the coastline, and it's not clear yet who will win.:: Via Los Angeles Times

Tags: Central America | Panama

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