Thursday, 13 October 2011

Saludos amigos!

Greetings Akazulers!

Firstly, my apologies for the lack of updates from the Akazul desk over the last few months- it has been a busy time for all of us.

We have plenty of good news and updates to fill you in on...

We submitted and had our proposal accepted for developing a sea turtle education centre/exhibition inside the Akazul field station in La Barrona. The grant was kindly awarded to us by SWOT (State of the World's Sea Turtles) and work will begin over the next few months on creating the exhibition. Let's hope this is the first of many grants to help us continue developing new aspects of the project.

Another big piece of news- Scott was recently awarded a special award from CONAP (Guatemala's environment protection agency) for his outstanding contribution to sea turtle conservation in Guatemala over the last ten years! Such a great acheivement, we are all really proud of him! And fantastic that the government have recognised his hard work and dedication to sea turtle conservation over the last decade.

Scott getting the community fired up for saving turtles!

Another big project on the way is a community mural. Bob Compton generously donated to Akazul to enable us to paint a mural on the Akazul field station- this will definitely make the building a lot prettier and will also give the community a great piece of artwork in the centre of the village to keep them smiling! We hope to begin working on this project towards the end of the sea turtle season.

The nesting season so far has been extremely successful- the guys have been working exceptionally hard to keep the beach monitored day and night to find nesting turtles and collect egg donations from "parlameros". This is the first year that a tagging program has been carried out in La Barrona and more than 150 turtles have been successfully tagged with several returning to nest again this season. The official stats are: 12 have returned to La Barrona twice to nest, 6-8 have returned three times and we have also had a couple show up to nest further along the coast towards Hawaii and Monterrico. It is an exciting break through as olive ridleys appear to have a fairly wide range when it comes to nesting- showing little or no nest site fidelity. Information from tagging studies like these can really help us to understand more about the ecology and behaviour of these animals which will also aid conservation and management in the future.

Another Akazul tagged turtle returning to the sea.

Despite the difficult start to the season with the mass strandings, flooding, high seas and loss of our hatchery- the turtles have been nesting in force this year! The team have burried 13,250 eggs in the hatchery and have managed to acheive a 20% donation per nest from the local far as we know this is the first time in the history of Guatemala's sea turtle conservation! Amazing results, and I am incredibly proud of the guys who have made this much talked about dream become a reality! A big hats off to all the volunteers we have had working on the project this season, we couldn't have done this without you so thankyou!

Guatemala is presently being hammered by another tropical storm bringing with it heavy rainfall and sadly many villages have been affected by flooding and landslides. La Barrona has been underwater once again this year with some parts of the village being chest high in water. Fortunately the village is coping extremely well, however other areas have not been quite so fortunate. It is becoming an increasing worry how affected many Central American countries have been over the last few years with increasing rainfall and flooding. Food for thought...

On a lighter note, another new initiative has been launched... the Akazul football (or soccor if you are that way inclined!) team... Zander Srodes has been a big part of this and his mum Jean has helped provide the kit to the lads. The team are out there representing Akazul and also have been out in force on the beach looking for turtles. Such a great idea and has been a real boost to all involved.

Team Akazul

Ever and Zander rounding up the team

Finally, we'd like to make a special mention of an amazing new member to the Akazul team. Ever Ernesto Rizo Guardado is a local fisherman and former parlamero who first became interested in the project back in 2005 when the first Project Parlama volunteers came to la Barrona. He has been absolutely amazing over the last year, showing exceptional dedication and support to the project. It's not often folk will work for free, even rarer in a country with such a high rate of poverty- I think that it speaks for itself that Ever is our first local volunteer on the project. We feel so grateful to have the pleasure of working with him- once the funding is there he will be the first Akazul employee! Es seguro!

Ever- Akazul's first local volunteer

All the best from us here at Akazul, we will update again soon...
Hasta pronto amigos!