It’s the happy images we receive from zoos and animal sanctuaries from all over the world that makes us realize our uselessness to Mother Earth: penguins roaming freely in the Berlin Zoo, felines and canines all enjoying their non-spectator naps and mating, pandas rolling freely in their quiet bamboo shack for once.
And the same seemed to be the case for turtle hatcheries all across the world. Rushikulya, India has seen 200,000 olive ridley turtles taken advantage of the social lockdown, says BC Choudhury, executive trustee and senior scientific advisor of the Wildlife Trust of India. No people to crush the eggs, fewer mangy dogs to destroy the nests with reduced traffic lights and highway traffic light pollution to distract the hatchlings.
“The benefit of no visitors this year may make the management think of visitor control during the next arribada season,” says Choudhury.
In Florida, the survival rate for these turtles increased as human obstacles cleared the way for boat collisions or beachwear pollution, explains Brad Nahill, president and co-founder of SEE Turtles, an ecotourism group.
However, Nahill says we shouldn’t remain all rosy-eyed for the future for these turtles when it comes to less human attention.
As eco-tourism is all but gone due to the lockdown, more people have become “desperate” for income and food.Illegal hunting, egg stealing has all but increased in certain regions as the lockdown measures are elongated, with no stopping in the near foreseeable future.
“We have reports (of) this happening in a number of places including multiple sites in Costa Rica, as well as Panama, Grenada, Sri Lanka, Nicaragua and Mexico,” he says.
Didiher Chacon Chaverri, executive director of Latin American Sea Turtles Association (LAST), says international voluntourism has completely collapsed.
As a result, “our budget has disappeared,” he says.Voluntourism also provides crucial headcount for beach monitoring. “If we are not present on the beaches with our volunteers, poachers dominate the stage,” says Chaverri.
Nahill says a forgivable government loan and a “large anonymous donation” has stabilized SEE Turtles for the year.However, “if tourism continues to be stalled through 2021, the situation could get very dire for our organization,” he adds.
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