Their Oaxaca program consists of monitoring and conserving coral reef ecosystems and sea turtle nesting beaches. On day one we jumped in a boat and motored on out to a couple of Huatulco National Park’s bays, and did some work monitoring the buoy system that WILDCOAST helped implement the year prior. The buoy system is part of a pilot program, so monthly data collection and monitoring is required and the data they collect will affect future work.
My biggest education during this entire experience was seeing how WILDCOAST’s work relies so heavily on educating the local community. Because without community support, these systems wouldn’t have stayed in place. Sure, WILDCOAST has done an amazing job in setting up the buoy system, but for the greatest results it was absolutely vital that they spread the word to all of the local and touring boaters. They achieved this by teaching local tour operators how to properly utilize the system with the intentions of protecting coral reefs.
It was on this boat journey that we saw our first sea turtle swimming by. We stopped the motor to check her out, and she seemed to stop and check us out in return. It was so cool, and so rewarding!
After another few days and projects specifically aimed at educating local children about their coast and ocean, including an interactive experience involving them in a Town Center mural painting, we were finally on our way to Morro Ayuta; the world’s most important nesting beach for Olive Ridley sea turtles. About a two hour drive south of Huatulco, Morro Ayuta is a 15km stretch of undeveloped beach, where WILDCOAST volunteers camp out nightly to monitor sea turtle activity and promote healthy environments.
There they performed a training seminar at a large palapa, where local villagers brought their children to participate. I don’t speak Spanish, but the enthusiasm of the kids was undeniable. They learned about the different sea turtle species and the threats to turtles, including their own inherited tradition of eating turtle meat and eggs (which, in effect, perpetuates poaching). The big idea here being - you can slowly shift traditions by reaching children’s hearts at an impressionable age.