“Life Below Water: The Turtle Sanctuary in Barra” – Kathleen Kenna – EIL Intercultural Learning
I was beginning to realise as a volunteer you have to expect the unexpected and do your best to adapt and cope. Laura, my local mentor, informed me that there was a 2 week summer camp at the turtle sanctuary. Most of the local children of Barra were going to attend this so my project at this point was to accompany them on the bus leaving Barra at 7am to 3 pm.
The founder of this Turtle Sanctuary was a lady called Damaris Martin Smith, a Mexican lady married to an American man, so she spoke very good English and realised very quickly that I didn’t have very good Spanish. She was very good at explaining what she wanted the children to learn.
After my first week at this summer camp I really wanted to know why she was so passionate about the pollution under water and more importantly the sea turtles that come to nest on the beaches of Barra. She agreed to do a video interview with me and explained. She founded the Turtle Sanctuary in 2011 called Campamento Tortuguero Ayotlcalli (Ayotlcalli meaning the house of the turtle.) The beaches of Barra that run 15 kilometers long is the nesting zone for 3 endangered species of sea turtles, The Olive Rigley, The Leather Back and The Black. This program has no government funding and relies on donations and volunteers to survive. The summer camp is an integrated program for children in reading, writing and environmental studies. It also encourages the children in the protection and conservation of all endangered species. This helps to make them aware of not only the dangers the sea turtles face when they come on to the beach to hatch their eggs, but also the danger from poachers and animals that dig up the eggs and will kill the mother turtle and eat or sell the meat. Also the on land pollution such as plastics, Styrofoam and even something as simple as plastic straws disregarded on the beach that gets washed into the ocean can cause a slow death to all undersea life.
The one thing I will always remember is when Damaris taught them to sing as a group in English (Imagine by John Lennon) for the final day for their parents. What a Global Song for Global interaction. This was when she invited me to participate in a night patrol to give me the hands on experience of how important this work is. We patrolled the beach looking out for mother turtles that come on the beach to lay their eggs in a hole dug out by the mother turtle. She then fills in the hole again so the eggs take the time to hatch and dig their way out to then scurry along the sand and into the ocean. I was very lucky as we came across 2 mother turtles nesting on the beach. We left them to get on with it under infrared light. Then when she was finished, we gently held her to take measurements and tag her so when she comes back again next year to nest, it will come up on the database.
I realised these are such gentle creatures and only want to return to the sea, which, we made sure they did as is normal they will never see their babies again. Then we dug up the eggs (in-total over 200) and brought them to the secure enclosure within the sanctuary to rebury again. They will hatch safely and make their way back into the ocean. The females of these eggs will always come back to the beach they were nested on to hatch their own eggs thus preserving this endangered species. This is all because of another amazing and committed lady who I had the experience in intercultural learning to learn about the importance of educating and highlighting awareness of “Life Below Water” (SDG 14) for the next generations to come. Because oceans absorb about 40% of the carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impact of global warming and endangering life below water. All the world's oceans, their temperature, chemistry currents and life under water drive global systems that make the earth habitable for humankind. Careful management of this essential global resource is a must for a sustainable future.
Name: Kathleen Kenna