Turtle Power: Endangered Sea Turtles Are on the Rise on These Islands

Nesting sites in Nicaragua have seen a 200 percent increase since 2000.

A hawksbill sea turtle. (Photo: Jim Abernethy/Getty Images)

Dec 12, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

When you’re a critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle, any news is usually bad news. But not today.

New numbers from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s hawksbill monitoring program show big increases in the number of turtle nests on Nicaragua’s Pearl Cays islands.

Researchers counted 468 nests this year in the monitored region, the highest count since the program began in 2000, when only 154 turtle nests were counted.

“These recent nest counts show that by working with local communities, we can save sea turtles from extinction,” Caleb McClennen, WCS executive director of marine conservation, said in a statement.

Populations of the seven known species of sea turtle have been decimated worldwide, with the hawksbill’s shell sought after by Japanese jewelry makers. From 1950 to 1992, the country imported more than 1.3 million adult shells and 775,00 stuffed juveniles before the trade was banned.

Still, a black market thrives in Asia, and just last month more than 1,000 dead sea turtles were found in Vietnam, bound for China, Vietnam police said.

WCS found that prior to 2000, nearly every nest on the 18 islands that make up Nicaragua’s Pearl Cays was poached, with most of the eggs removed for human consumption.

Today, poaching numbers in the monitoring sites have decreased by 80 percent, affecting only 5 percent of nests this year. McClennen said a big reason for the steep decline has been the work to create awareness with local populations about limiting sea-turtle egg harvests.

“Communities partnering with WCS are directly involved with safeguarding their own natural resources,” he said. “Without their help and commitment, this project would fail, and Nicaragua’s hawksbill turtles would be doomed.”

What’s the result of more successful nests? A lot more baby sea turtles. By the end of November, more than 35,000 hatchlings had made their way off the beach and into the ocean.