Welcome to the tortugario el Banco
The tortugario el Banco.
Somewhere on the Pacific Coast of Guatemala you can find a small community called el Banco, where the volcanic sands on the beach provide ideal nesting conditions for three species of sea turtle, olive ridley, green and leatherback.
Around 25 years ago conservation efforts were started in response to declining numbers of sea turtles that were using the beach at el Banco. Threats to the success of the turtle eggs hatching are great and vary from depredation from birds and domestic dogs, to high levels of traffic on the beach (from quad bikes and ATV’s) and poaching for human consumption.
One of the key people in this effort at the Tortugario el Banco, is Don Juanito. He and his family have been receiving eggs from collectors on the beach for many years now. Instead of being sold for food, the eggs are reburied in protected hatcheries, or tortugarios, and incubated. When the babies hatch, they are released back into the Pacific Ocean.
For the last 25 years Don Juanito and his family have cared for hundreds of thousands of turtle eggs in the tortugario. These consistent efforts are starting to pay off.
Community releasing hatchlings
Olive Ridley sea turtles.
The turtle that most commonly uses the beach at El Banco is the olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea). Females take around seven years years to reach breeding age and return to the beach on which they hatch to lay their eggs. So there is a delay of almost a decade before any results are seen.
Now 25 years since the conservation efforts began we are starting to see amazing results. In 2016 saw over 130,000 olive ridleys released, the previous year it had been 75,000!
This 2017 season looks set to beat last years record. So far this season, over 260,000 eggs have been brought to Tortugario El Banco for incubating, and females are still coming to the beach to lay their precious cargos of eggs!
Partnership working with Fundaselva
In 2015 Indigo Expeditions teamed up with Guatemalan charity, Fundaselva, to assist Tortugario el Banco with their ongoing efforts to save the countries sea turtle populations. It is our intention to start monitoring programmes to asses the status of the adult populations of sea turtles. We hope that these efforts will show just how effective the project at Tortugario el Banco is.
To help us achieve this goal Fundaselva is building a research station next to the tortugarios – Estacion Biologica el Banco!
Indigo Research Assistants and volunteers will be able to stay at the station and get involved with sea turtle conservation and community education projects.
Running for conservation!
Right at the beginning of the Indigo Turtle House build in 2015, I visited the tortugario to help release some hatchling leatherbacks (Dermochelys coriacea).
It was then that I met Nick Kershaw of Impact Marathon Series.
We spoke for some time about our respective projects. Ours being a community based conservation project. Nick’s being a Guatemalan marathon that not only raises money for Guatemalan projects such as ours, but where runners have the opportunity to volunteer at those projects too.The aim is to have positive impact in the host countries through the power of running!
It is amazing to me that, not only did both projects start in their conception at roughly the same time, but they are going to start together too! A wonderful piece of timing. So after what seems like a long journey to get here, the first Guatemalan Impact Marathon will be held from 5th to 11th of March, 2018!
Impact runners will then have the opportunity to be the first Indigo Research Assistants at the Indigo Turtle House at El Banco from 11th to 18th of March 2018.
With numbers of turtles increasing, the start of our sea turtle conservation project, and two fabulous partnerships coming to fruition, 2018 is set to be turtley amazing!!