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Ecuadorian Turtle Conservation

Coastal Ecuador

Ecuadorian Turtle Conservation
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Turtle Research in Ecuador

Project Information

Volunteer Type Volunteer

Cost of Project From $1600 AUD

Duration Minimum 1 month

Start Dates Quito orientation: Monday - Friday.
Project start dates: 23/02/18, 23/03/18, 20/04/18, 18/05/18, 22/06/18, 27/07/18, 30/08/18, 5/10/18, 2/11/18

Work Roster Weekdays, 6 hours per day, weekend work during nesting season (November - April).

Age Requirement 18 years of age


Ecuador's uniquely diverse coastline makes it a favourable nesting area for sea turtles, and as a result, there are 4 different species of turtles that call it home. These are green turtles, leatherbacks, hawksbills and olive-ridleys.

Despite their beauty and ecological importance, these gentle creatures are critically endangered.  Their nesting sites are being destroyed and over-fishing is depleting the oceans of food that is imperative for their survival.

The project was created in light of the urgent need to obtain information to conserve Ecuador’s ecosystems and marine resources, in particular, sea turtles. 

In addition to turtle conservation, project staff and volunteers work with the community educating people from the surrounding areas about the conservation projects and the importance of respecting the environment.

The project also operates a sea turtle egg hatchery program on one of the islands, the only one of its kind in Ecuador.

  • Your Contribution

Sea turtles spend most of their lives in the ocean, but nest on beaches. At certain times of the year, when the tides and seasons align, the females abandon the security of the ocean and make their way up the beaches to lay their eggs. Sea turtles are very vulnerable on land, and even after a nest is successfully laid, it is still very susceptible to harm by humans.

Through this volunteer program, you will gain an invaluable experience and share unforgettable moments with staff, the local people and with the biodiversity of Ecuador's coast. The work is interesting and unique and is very hands on during rescues and releases.

  • A Typical Day

As a volunteer you may help with the following activities:
*Diurnal and nocturnal patrols of beaches
*Measurement and tagging of turtles
*Egg counting and nest tagging
*Egg transfers to an egg hatchery site
*Installation of transmitters on turtle shells
*Telemetry activities on board a boat
*Capture and recapture of turtles in the sea.

Throughout the nesting season, the staff and volunteers patrol the coasts of the park to learn the exact dates of the nesting season. They track numbers and locations of individual nests, count eggs, and determine hatching times. With these patrols, we hope to establish a clear idea of the population dynamics and reproductive success of the turtles.

When the nests are found, they are marked, protected, and constantly monitored. In May, the first hatchlings begin to emerge and make it safely to the sea!

In the National Park sea turtles are frequently observed swimming freely in the coral reefs. However, little is known about these populations. To obtain a complete picture of the sea turtle population, it is also necessary to obtain data from the turtles in the ocean. To do this, the Environmental Ministry of Ecuador has allowed us to capture turtles at sea, take measurements, mark them, and release them back into the ocean. This information is vital to understanding their habitats and distribution, and recapture of marked individuals is especially helpful, as it helps us better understand the growth and development of the turtles.

Another objective of this activity is to determine whether the turtles are actually living in the reefs around the island, or simply passing through.

Every volunteer must contribute with the maintenance and cleaning of the Volunteer House and field equipment.

  • Skills Required

You must possess the following qualities:
*A great interest towards environmental issues, especially in marine conservation
*A willingness to learn about the environment and the local people
*The ability to work on your own or as part of a team
*A predisposition to assist staff with environmental education activities
*The ability to work in the hot sun and within the water
*Patience and a great work ethic.

In addition to the above, daily tasks may include:
*Walking beaches collecting trash
*Camping and patrolling beaches during the day and night

You must be 20 years or older to volunteer at this project.

A small amount of Spanish in order to communicate with the local people is desirable but not necessary. Talk to O2E about doing some Spanish lessons in Quito before you go!

  • Challenges

The project's activities are effected by the season. For example, nesting season usually begins in January so you may not find a laying turtle in order to count the eggs. It is not impossible though! Although project staff try their best to accomplish all tasks as scheduled, sometimes these cannot be carried out due to various factors (i.e. bad climate conditions). For this reason, we ask volunteers to be patient and understanding.

With respect to turtle capture, we cannot always capture them as they are wild animals. The capture success depends on tides, climate conditions, and seasonality. It is rare, but possible, that you may not see a turtle.

  • Accommodation

Shared rooms for 4 people in a volunteer house are located two blocks away from the beach front or at the sea turtle egg hatchery program location.

  • Meals

No meals are included, however kitchen facilities are available in the volunteer house. Fresh seafood is available at the market daily.

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