Feb 9, 2023
Jessie Cabagbag used to search the white-sand beaches of the Philippines, looking for sea turtle nests. He would raid them. Any turtles or eggs found were quickly eaten or sold. And Cabagbag wasn’t alone. The poaching of sea turtles is a big threat. Now, though, many who once tried to earn a living by hunting sea turtles have turned to conservation. That's thanks to the efforts of Coastal Underwater Resource Management Actions (CURMA).
"We talked to the poachers, and it turned out poaching was just another means for them to earn a living," Carlos Tamayo, CURMA's director of operations, told Reuters. "They had no choice."
Now, Cabagbag still seeks out turtle eggs, but any he finds are given to CURMA. The group re-nests them on protected beaches. For each egg, he’s paid 37 cents. That's four times what he might get from illegally selling them for food.
The 7,641 islands of the Philippines serve as nesting grounds for green, hawksbill, loggerhead, leatherback, and olive ridley sea turtles. All are endangered. Most seasons, scientists expect to find 35-40 nests. Thanks to CURMA’s efforts, those numbers are on the rise.
"Last season alone, for example, we had 75 nests and we released close to 9,000 hatchlings," Tamayo told Reuters.
CURMA’s impact has also made the lives of former poachers better.
"The incentives help us pay for our food and electricity bill. I was able to save and use it to buy a tricycle, which I use (to ferry passengers) when I could not go out to fish, so that's another source of income," Cabagbag said. “I am truly proud.”
Photo from Reuters.
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