Ever since Ani Henriquez saw sea turtles nesting on a beach in her home country of El Salvador, she’s been working to help save Hawksbill turtles.
Henriquez, Executive Director of Asociacion Procosta, the first non-profit in El Salvador to works with the conservation and protection of Hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) says that the Hawksbills inhabiting the eastern Pacific are among the most endangered and least resilient sea turtle populations on the planet.
“In early 2007 Hawksbill turtles in El Salvador were considered an extinct species, there were few nesting data that was not confirmed, but during this year a research survey from Mexico to Peru was held to understand Hawksbill turtles nesting activity,” she says, adding that Hawksbill turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act and listed as Endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
“During the past 10 years we have registered more than 3000 Hawksbill nests and from 0% of protection rate we now have 99% protection rate with help of local communities,” Henriquez says, adding that this information provides an important justification of how important these nesting areas are for Hawksbill turtles populations in the Eastern Pacific.
Henriquez is also a Fellow of the New England Aquarium’s Marine Conservation Action Fund (MCAF), which helps support her work.
Building Comunity Trust
Henriquez is from El Salvador and had her Eureka moment on a beach there.
“This idea started after watching for the first time a sea turtle nesting back in 1999, since that day I became interested in sea,” she says, adding that she started as a volunteer, and a few years later, was able to work as a program coordinator for turtle conservation in El Salvador.
In terms of the potential of science and conservation from the Global South, Henriquez says unity and community involvement is important.
“I believe scientists in general need to be united and distribute efforts to cover all areas of conservation, to guarantee protection to wildlife specialty the critical endangered species,” she says, “Communities are an important pillar for conservation programs: long term commitment projects to guarantee engagement and trust between communities.”
Henriquez says one of my biggest challenges was to be able to gain trust and engagement with local communities.
“But after 10 years of work I have a second family and this has been a big opportunity in my career since communities are the main pillars of conservation, providing successful results to our program,” she says.
Another conservationist in the Global South is Francklin Barbier, the Sea Turtle and Sea Bird Coordinator at the Haiti Ocean Project in says that he and his team work to research and document Haiti’s little-studied sea turtle populations.
Barbier, who is also a 2022 Fellow of the New England Aquarium’s Marine Conservation Action Fund (MCAF), says the funds and resources from the grant helped further the turtle project.
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