The mangroves and beaches of El Paredón are great destinations for anyone who wants to observe birds or marine turtles. The forest, tucked inside the Sipacate-Naranjo National Park on Guatemala’s Pacific coast, includes red, black, and white mangroves. More than 90 species of birds have been identified—herons, spoonbills, ospreys, terns, pelicans, warblers, and many others. Marine turtles frequent the area, too, drawn to the seagrass. The long, skinny national park—about 12 miles long and just six-tenths of a mile wide—includes a small island, El Jardin, where endangered hawksbill, olive ridley, and green sea turtles nest.
Unfortunately, turtle populations appear to be going down, though no solid numbers are available. Illegal egg-gathering takes a toll. Boat strikes also injure and kill many animals every year. (No one knows the exact number because many incidents are not reported.) Many injured turtles die because there is no facility where they can be treated.
One main goal of this project with local partner Chapinísmos en Acción is to reduce turtle injuries and deaths. New signs in the channel alert boaters to the presence of turtles and post the speed limit. The frequency of boat patrols, which deter speeding, will double. Outreach to the boat operators stresses the importance of conserving the area’s endangered species and ecosystems. Those who commit to observing the rules receive incentives in the form of life jackets and nature brochures. In an area where livelihood opportunities are limited to fishing, collecting salt, or farming, these supplies help them earn money from wildlife-based tourism.
The second part of the project involves building a shallow pool, shaded by a palm roof, where wounded turtles can be cared for and recover. Volunteer veterinarians will look after injured animals.
Finally, an education and turtle pride campaign will be aimed at schoolchildren and the public. The collapsing roof of a building used for environmental education and other gatherings will be replaced.