Cassie's Turtle Volunteer Experience - Day 5 / 6

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Cassie at her volunteer job – Hatchery shift to watch over the eggs!

It is quite the week this week for turtle nesting. The past three nights I’ve walked this week there has been a turtle every single time that has nested. Two nights ago, we were with one turtle for about thirty minutes before we realized there was another one not even ten feet from her. It’s already amazing to see one by itself, but to see both turtles next to each other was so awesome.

I cannot believe the things I get to do. I was able to actually reach down in the turtle’s nest as she was laying eggs in order to collect them and count them. Because we were close enough to the hatchery to walk back and rebury the eggs there in order for them to be safer, the process of gathering the eggs must be quick. While we are on a mission to save the eggs from poachers, the turtle is on a mission of her own. She is quick to bury the eggs up as soon as she is done laying, and it is very difficult to gather the eggs when she starts covering the eggs up I have realized. I was battling with some pretty large and strong flippers before we gave up and waited for her to finish covering the half of the egg batch we couldn’t gather. After she was done and safely back to the sea, we dug up the nest, collected the eggs, and swiftly walked back to the hatchery where they were relocated.

Cassie with her host family's son

Cassie with her host family’s son

Though I’ve seen about five turtles now, the experience is still so exciting each time we spot one. Last night the guides and myself actually walked past a turtle nesting, and the couple patrolling with us was the one to spot the massive animal. They blend in so well with the sand, and it is so dark at night you almost think every log you see is a turtle. I’ve said it before, but it really is like seeing a prehistoric animal. They are so massive and unlike anything you would see in a local aquarium. It is literally the size of my father–I can’t describe it in terms to make anyone understand who has not experienced it for themselves.

The language barrier is still frustrating, it is hard to be in a village where almost no one speaks English. You feel a little helpless, but you learn a lot. Last night I talked to Danielson about food for an hour because I knew those terms at least. The conversation literally went like “Do you like pancakes” “Do you like pizza” “What kind of pizza,” regardless I think the guides are really happy to have me along because I do not hesitate to talk to them, despite the language barrier.

Beach at Turtle Project

Beach at Turtle Project

Today is my day off besides hatchery duty. I will go to the hatchery in about 30 minutes to watch the nests for 3 hours. Most of the village actually participates in these, a lot of the mothers have no trouble bringing their kids along and helping out. The Parismina Turtle Project is actually the only project in the country that was started solely by the village. It is truly amazing to think that you really do not need fancy biologists and technology to be a part of conservation efforts, it just takes heart and determination. The guides are truly passionate about what they do, and as I am learning, the tasks do not take a brain surgeon. They are taken seriously however. The guides are very well trained due to the Coast Guard coming in to the village to teach correct procedures on measuring turtles, counting eggs, handling eggs, etc. When we count the eggs and put them in a bag, it is very important we relocate them within 45 minutes so the embryos will still be able to latch.

More soon,
Cassie