Ban and Benefits: Tortuguero at 2000

Sebastian Troëng1, Eduardo Chamorro2, and Roxana Silman1
1Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC), Apdo. Postal 246-2050, San Pedro, Costa Rica
2área de Conservation Tortuguero (ACTo), Finca Los Diamantes, Guápiles, Costa Rica

The objective of this presentation is to report on the progress on two recent challenges for sea turtle conservation at Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica: 1) illegal harvest of nesting females; and 2) developing alternative livelihoods for former turtle consumers.

Tortuguero Conservation Area increased protection activities during the green turtle nesting seasons of 1998 and 1999. Enforcement efforts included more beach patrols by park rangers and by staff borrowed from police and coast guard. Weekly track surveys show that the illegal harvest decreased substantially over 1997 levels, indicating that the presence of more personnel on the nesting beach has been effective in deterring poaching. Enforcement was made considerably easier by unambiguous legislation that completely prohibits the harvest of green turtles.

Since 1993, Tortuguero villagers are no longer allowed to harvest any green turtles for subsistence use. Efforts to develop an alternative income source for former turtle consumers were initiated by CCC and the Costa Rican National Park Service in 1990 with the establishment of a tour guide training program. Tourists wishing to see nesting turtles at night must now be accompanied by a licensed tour guide. The number of visitors paying to go on turtle walks has increased dramatically since 1990, reaching 20,885 tourists in 1999. The revenue from the turtle walks amounts to a minimum of US$104,425 for 150 licensed guides.

Expanded cooperation between the Tortuguero community, conservation NGOs including CCC, and government agencies (MINAE) is suggested in order to ensure continued success for sea turtle conservation in Tortuguero.

Tortuguero Conservation area staff provided support in preparing this talk. Caribbean Conservation Corporation provided the funding for the authors to participate in this symposium. Eddy and Alonso Rankin conducted track surveys to monitor illegal harvest 1997-1999. Many thanks to the Tortuguero tour guides for showing the world that a turtle is worth more alive than dead.

Abstract of paper presented at 20th International Symposium, 2000