In a time of crisis, it’s always unknown how people are going to respond. We can always hope for the best but that does not always happen and you never know which way people will go.
In light of the current COVID-19 situation, the town of Tortuguero has been left empty of tourists, therefore leaving the local people without an income since tourism was restricted in Costa Rica back in March. This situation has unfortunately led to an increase in sea turtle poaching, both for sea turtle eggs and adult turtle meat.
While this negative side effect of the lack of tourism is the one that usually takes the spotlight, it is not the only thing happening in light of the COVID crisis. In response to the increase in poaching, the local people have rallied to combat this problem and protect the turtles that are essential for the sustainability of the town.
By 2 means, the towns people have volunteered their time to aid in patrolling the beach to prevent poaching. Those with experience have joined forces with the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) to aid them in their nightly patrols. This has allowed the STC to work at a normal level even while understaffed. Their constant presence on the beach acts as a natural deterrent to poaching and leaves only a very small window of the night where the area is unmonitored.
Those without the necessary turtle monitoring experience have volunteered their time to the national park to do simple walking patrols along the specific beach locations that have been classed as hot spots. This allows for a direct line of communication to be ready between the national park and the beach, so they can be ready to act if poaching activity is spotted.
The town is also working hard to support each other in these difficult times. In particular, a local NGO has been providing cat and dog food to help support the four-legged members of the community as well. Being a small, remote village, Tortuguero lacks a veterinary clinic and many people lack the money and access to neutering services for their pets. This means that the stray cat and dog population of Tortuguero is high and these animals often stray to the beach or national park to find wild eggs and small wildlife to eat and survive. With food being provided to families based on the amount of animals they have, this means that they do not need to spend what limited money they have left to feed them and less will end up on the streets.
Alongside the pet food drives, there have also been multiple food drives and handouts provided by the government that the locals have been helping each other with. With those who are able to afford food for themselves during this time donating their share to those families who are in a harder place.
Even when times are tough, it is amazing to see these communities coming together to not only help each other but to help the wildlife that they live alongside. It will take everyone’s help to make sure we all come out the other side of this crisis, so the more initiatives like this the better.