Sea turtle conservation efforts have been going on for decades, but there are still many challenges facing these animals and more work needs to be done.
Of the seven species of sea turtle in the world, six are facing obstacles that affect their population numbers.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species:
olive ridley and loggerhead turtles are considered vulnerable
green turtles are endangered
hawksbill and Kemp’s ridley turtles are critically endangered.
And, the flatback turtle isn’t in the clear either.
Although it isn’t categorised above, there’s not enough data available for us to know for sure what the conservation status of flatback turtles is.
So it’s easy to see that lots more needs to be done in the way of sea turtle conservation. And if you’re wondering how to make an impact, marine conservation volunteering aimed at sea turtles is a great choice.
Here are five reasons why you should be a turtle conservation volunteer.
1) You can go to where the turtles are
Sea turtles are known to travel more than 16,000 kilometres each year to migrate between their foraging and nesting grounds.
With so much distance to cover, it’s no surprise that these ocean dwellers aren’t often spotted swimming alongside beachgoers, or resting on the sandy shore, watching the tide rise and fall.
The best part about marine conservation volunteering aimed at sea turtles, is that you’ll work with an organisation that will get you to where the turtles are during their nesting season – a time when you can make the biggest impact in their conservation.
Because different species nest at different times of the year, you could get involved as a sea turtle conservation volunteer all year round.
Marine conservation volunteering shouldn’t be about trying out different things until something sticks.
Reputable marine conservation volunteer programs are based on science and volunteer best practice, and they’re supervised by experts in the field.
As a turtle conservation volunteer on one of these programs, you’ll get involved in activities developed to address the challenges faced by sea turtles in a relevant and effective way.
And, by working with staff and other volunteers on every project, you’ll be part of making an impact on a much bigger scale.
3) You can add to efforts in different ways
There’s a whole host of ethical ways to volunteer with turtles and build on achieving global conservation goals.
Start off by scouring beaches for sea creatures creeping out of the water and onto the shore.
Keep a close eye on mother turtles that are preparing to lay their eggs. When you’ve spotted their nests, you’ll work with a team to collect data on the adult turtles. You’ll also survey the beach daily, watching out for flooding nests or predators, like vultures, that have crept too close to turtle eggs.
Under the supervision of experts in the field, you’ll work to find ways to protect the turtle eggs, without bringing harm to any of the animals in the vicinity.
If you’re lucky enough to volunteer with turtles when hatchlings are starting to clamber out of their nests, then you’ll get to contribute in even more ways.
Get ready to run alongside hatchlings as they make a dash for the ocean, clearing their path and keeping them out of reach of the seabirds, crabs or even dogs that are looking for their next meal.
You’ll be a sea turtle conservation volunteer who can say that you contributed to the turtles’ journey from land to sea.
And the data you help to collect will also add to local and international sea turtle conservation records. This means you’ll be making an impact that can continue for years to come.
4) You’re efforts will add to sustainable development
Marine conservation volunteering has a direct positive impact on sea turtles.
And, the impact of these efforts can be far-reaching if you participate in sustainable conservation volunteer opportunities.
As a volunteer on one of these types of programs, making an impact can mean adding to the well-being of local people too.
For example, Costa Rica’s Tortuguero National Park is one of the places where leatherback turtles come to nest.
These sea turtles contribute to the ecosystem in this area. This means that if they were no longer around, other animals in the ecosystem would be negatively affected, like the jaguars that feed on these turtles, or the otters that benefit from the nutrients they bring to the park’s waters.
And this could lead to decreasing population numbers for all the species of plants and animals in the park.
And that’s not all – human beings would also be affected in the following ways:
The economy would be less successful with the loss of this ecosystem – which draws many tourists to the park each year.
People may need to leave the area in search of economic opportunities – which would also mean less individuals putting time and effort into restoring the environment.
While we’re not at this point right now, the number of turtles visiting the park is dropping each year. And the same can be seen in nesting destinations across the world.
With more turtle conservation volunteers getting involved abroad every year, we can have a growing impact, and get ahead of the obstacles that turtles are facing worldwide.
5) Be a part of making an impact globally
When you volunteer in marine conservation abroad, you’ll work with turtles in the location you choose to volunteer in. But, because these creatures travel great distances, they form part of ecosystems across the world.
And any positive impact you’ve had on their well-being will travel with them, and become part of a positive impact in turtle conservation on a global scale.
How to make an impact as a turtle conservation volunteer
Get involved in the best marine conservation volunteering programs, and you won’t have to wonder about whether or not you’ll make a meaningful contribution to turtle conservation efforts.
You’ll add more umph to turtle conservation efforts and help to build on the well-being of sea turtle species in a big way.
Tasneem Johnson-Dollie is a travel writer living in South Africa. She has experience in public health nutrition and worked as a dietician before launching her writing career. She loves bringing her passion for public health and sustainable development to every article she writes. Her travels around South Africa as well as to India, Australia, and Saudi Arabia have fueled her passion for exploration.