Sea Turtle Conservation Project
in Saona Island
Hawksbill turtles and indeed all marine turtles are nearing extinction in the Dominican Republic – but thanks to projects carried out in Saona Island, the numbers of these beautiful creatures are slowly increasing.
The Sea Turtle Conservation Project on Mano Juan, in Saona Island, keeps track of all the nests using a GPS. If a nest is situated in a high risk zone where it might get stepped on or stolen by poachers the Sea Turtle Conservation Project will step in and carefully remove the nest. The eggs are then incubated into cooler boxes and taken to the project until they hatch.
At the current moment the Hawksbill Sea Turtle is listed as critically endangered, this is very close to extinction. It takes the female 25 years to reach sexual maturity and only 5% of the baby sea turtles survive to adulthood.
There are various people involved in the sea turtle project. Yolanda Leon is the senior scientist, and his HERO Negro is responsible for the operational side of things.
Negro, who has lived on Saona Island all his life is a fisherman, who until 7 years ago was guilty of hunting turtles and their eggs – because many people in the Dominican Republic mistakenly believe that turtle eggs and meat can remedy erectile dysfunction. Fortunately, Negro has now seen the error in his ways and is working tirelessly (and with almost no support) to cultivate the marine turtle population of Saona Island – the most important nesting area for marine turtles in the entire Dominican Republic.
Since starting his mission, the number of turtles nesting along the coast of Saona Island have increased from just 7 to more than 35 – a number which continues to grow each year.