Karumbé Educational Program: involving communities in turtle conservation

Introduction Since the creation of Karumbé, our team has been committed to the development of local communities in interaction with marine turtles that arrive to Uruguayan coasts. Our educational program has evolved since 1999. In the first years we visited and met several coastal communities, especially establishing contact with fishermen and their families. Turtles have traditionally captivated Uruguayan fishermen, who respect these marine reptiles. Besides, turtles are not a traditional fishing target, although in times of lack of fish, dead turtles are sometimes used by some fishermen as a source of extra income or for food. However, when fishing is poor, the turtle becomes an easy source of meat for fishermen, as we have learned when facing the dilemma of comparing the importance of the life of a turtle with food for the kids of artisanal fishermen. The same thing happens with the illegal sale of carapaces becomes an attractive alternative source of income. Since 2001 we are working in San Luis, Canelones, providing information to fishermen working in the port, who used to bring us incidentally captured turtles. Their children immediately became our allies, so we started to focus on them. The social context and low income of these families made us implement a school follow-up program, handcraft activities, movies, games and other activities in order to counteract the problems and violence of their environment. We carried out these activities among 2004 and 2005, with excellent results. We started an economic development pilot program in order to promote the non-extractive use of marine turtles, producing and trading tshirts and handcrafts. The other town nearby Cerro Verde is La Coronilla. Our work there started in 2004 and at the begging we met with several difficulties, because people in this town are very reluctant to new local development proposals. Karumbé has developed an education program for the whole community, but focusing on children and teenagers. The Centre of Interpretation of Marine Turtles was opened to the public in 2004, with 12000 visitors along three summer season opening.

Fig.6 – Turtle Cakes

Fig.7 - Turtle Carnival

Fig.1-3 T- shirt workshop with women and children of San Luis

The Festival of the Marine Turtle, was launched in 2004 and realized in three consecutive years. The activities undertaken during the event included educational workshops for secondary school students. Lectures, games and mural painting were organized for children from 3 to 8 years old; and a drawing contest for primary school students was performed. During the Festival, juvenile green turtles were released in the presence of children of the local school. A Treasure Hunt and a Soccer Championship were performed with the children of the community. On the last day of the festival, a sea turtle cake contest took place involving the women of the community. The party and awards ceremony for the winners took place at the closing day of the festival. Local people felt that the Festival was a very positive event. The children demonstrated an incredible level of interest and joy while participating in festival activities. Not only the children but their families and other local inhabitants were both involved and demonstrated increasing awareness regarding conservation goals.

At the same time, while working in Cerro Verde, an important refuge and feeding area for the C. mydas, we got close to two nearby communities, Punta del Diablo and La Coronilla. These two communities are very different regarding their population and culture. Tradicionally, Punta del Diablo was a small town conformed by shark fishermen, where people consumed shark meat and sold crafts made of shark’s jaw bones and vertebras as alternative income sources. In this community we are at the moment having workshops with craftsmen in order to make crafts using the image of several flagships species. The idea behind this is to revalorize the identity of the town with its rich biodiversity.
Fig. 4 Karumbé Visitors Centre at La Coronilla Fig. 5 Workshop with local artisanals at Punta del Diablo

Fig. 8,9 – Future Local Guides of the Protected Area Cerro Verde

Since January 2007 we have been developing a course aimed to teenagers with the objective of informing them about biodiversity and the history of the area. We are trying to get them involved in these subjects, and make them feel proud and committed to the natural heritage of the area. They are going to be in charge of the organization in that protected area, and we require their participation in each stage of the process.
Acknowledgements Financial support for the symposium travel grant was from the Project GLOBAL, Disney Animal Kingdom, Western Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Council, US National Marine Fisheries Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service (Marine Turtle Conservation Fund), David and Lucille Packard Foundation, and the Sandler Family Foundation, Carlos Peralta Quintero and Robert N. Allen, Jr. To the local communities of San Luis, La Coronilla and Punta del Diablo, who open their minds and hearts to us.

- Bauzá A., M. Morales & I. Lopez. 2004. “Saving the Sea Turtle” Festival: Uruguay. Marine Turtle Newsletter 105: 18. - Laporta M. & P. Miller. 2005. Sea Turtles in Uruguay: Where Will They Lead Us…? Mast 2005 3(2) and 4(1):63-87 - Laporta M., P. Miller, M. Ríos, C. Lezama, A. Bauzá, A. Aisenberg, Ma. V. Pastorino & A. Fallabrino. 2006. Conservación y Manejo de Tortugas Marinas en la Zona Costera Uruguaya. Pp 259-269 En: Menafra R., Rodríguez-Gallego L., Scarabino F. & D. Conde (eds): Bases para la Conservación y Manejo de la Costa Uruguaya. VIDA SILVESTRE URUGUAY, Montevideo. I-xiv+668pp. - López-Mendilaharsu M., A. Bauzá, M. Laporta, M.N. Caraccio, C. Lezama, V. Calvo, M. Hernández, A. Estrades, A. Aisenberg & A. Fallabrino. 2003. Review and Conservation of Sea Turtles in Uruguay: Foraging habitats, distribution, causes of mortality, education and regional integration. Final Report: British Petroleum Conservation Programme. 109 pp. - López-Mendilaharsu M., A. Bauzá, A. Estrades, A. Fallabrino & M. Morales. 2005. Conservation of Critical Foraging Habitats for Juvenile Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas) in Uruguay, whit the participation of Local Communities. Final Report: PEOPLE´S TRUST FOR ENDANGERED SPECIES. 2005. 20 pp. - López-Mendilaharsu, M., A. Bauzá, C. Lezama, A. Estrades, M. Rios & A. Fallabrino. 2006. Development of Conservation Strategies for the Protection of Juvenile Green Turtle Populations at Critical Foraging Areas In Uruguay. Final Report: British Petroleum Conservation Programme 2005. 35 pp.

Antonia Bauzá

Karumbé. Av. Giannattasio 30.5 km. M511-S2, El Pinar, Canelones, Uruguay

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