The ocean turtles of Punta Chame, a peninsula of Panama that juts into the Pacific Ocean, face an existential menace much like the rhino and pangolin: human superstition.
The eggs of the protected olive ridley turtle, illegally harvested from the seaside, are bought door to door on the town for 75 cents to $1 every for his or her purported aphrodisiac qualities.
“Particularly males suppose that by consuming turtle eggs they are going to have extra sexual pleasure,” mentioned Jorge Padilla, a conservationist with the NGO Fundacion Tortuguias which collects and hatches the valuable eggs.
“The eggs will not allow you to. They don’t seem to be an aphrodisiac,” he insisted.
The olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) is listed as “susceptible” on the Crimson Listing of the Worldwide Union for Conservation of Nature, with its numbers declining.
Its survival depends closely on folks like Padilla, who with village volunteers accumulate freshly laid eggs and bury them in sand on the nursery.
Tons of hatch right here annually between July and February. Inside hours they’re dropped at the seaside and launched close to the water’s edge by volunteers who look on with parent-like pleasure because the tiny critters make a frantic sprint for the ocean.
“We can not simply put them (within the water) as a result of they need to undergo a course of known as ‘imprinting’ (alongside the seaside) that can convey them again in 18-20 years to the identical seaside the place they had been born” to put their very own eggs.
Used for combs, garments
Day and evening, Padilla patrols the seaside to scare off poachers.
Different threats embrace stray canines roaming the seashores for meals, and eagles.
Padilla repels the canines however leaves the eagles as they’re pure turtle predators and a part of the circle of life.
The turtles additionally find yourself as by-catch from fishing, and face threats to their nesting seashores from human encroachment and local weather change.
“There are a lot of threats to sea turtles, each within the Pacific and within the Caribbean: unlawful egg harvesting, overconsumption of their meat, their shells… They’re used for combs… clothes,” mentioned Padilla.
Marine turtles and their unsure destiny are on the agenda of a worldwide wildlife summit happening in Panama Metropolis, not removed from Punta Chame with its 500 human inhabitants.
The gathering of nations below the Conference on Worldwide Commerce in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will contemplate methods to fight egg theft and trafficking.
A working doc on the CITES web site states “the unlawful harvest and commerce continues to threaten marine turtles.”
© Agence France-Presse