Main image courtesy of Mike Liles. All other photos via Brad Nahill | SEEtheWILD
Follow our guest blogger, Brad Nahill, Director and Co-Founder of conservation non-profit SEEtheWILD, as he continues his mission to protect sea turtles in El Salvador.
The Last Refuge
A wide beach on a warm clear evening may be the most relaxing setting on earth. We weren’t likely to come across any nesting turtles on this beautiful evening in the far northwest corner of Nicaragua (the tides weren’t right), but we didn’t mind. The soft sound of surf provided a soundtrack for the brightest Milky Way I’ve seen in years. Just being out on the sand was enough entertainment. But we didn’t travel 10 hours by bus from El Salvador for a tranquil beach walk.
We came to Padre Ramos Estuary because it is home one of the world’s most inspiring sea turtle conservation projects. Our motley group of international sea turtle experts was there as part of a research expedition to study and protect one of the world’s most endangered turtle populations, the Eastern Pacific hawksbill sea turtle. Led by the Nicaraguan staff of Fauna & Flora International (FFI, an international conservation group) and carried out with support from the Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative (known as ICAPO), this turtle project protects one of only two major nesting areas for this population (the other is El Salvador’s Jiquilisco Bay). This project depends on the participation of local residents; a committee of 18 local non-profit organizations, community groups, local governments, and more.
The coastal road leading into the town of Padre Ramos felt like many other spots along Central America’s Pacific coast. Small cabinas line the beach, allowing surfers a place to spend a few hours out of the water each night. Tourism has barely touched the main town however and the stares of the local kids hinted that gringos are not yet a common sight walking around town.
After arriving at our cabinas, I grabbed my camera and took a walk through town. A late afternoon soccer game competed with swimming in the cool water for the favorite pastime of the residents. I walked out to the beach as the sun set and followed it north to the mouth of the estuary, which curls around the town. The flattened crater of the Cosigüina volcano overlooks the bay and several islands.
The next day, fully rested, we set off early in two boats to try to catch a male hawksbill in the water. Most of the turtles studied in this region have been females easily caught on the beach after nesting. We spotted a hawksbill alongside an island called Isla Tigra, directly in front of the Venecia Peninsula, and the team sprung into action, one person hopping out of the boat with the tail end of the net while the boat swung around in a large semicircle, the net spreading out behind the boat. Once the boat reached the shoreline, everyone hopped out to help pull in the two ends of the net, unfortunately empty.
Despite our poor luck at catching turtles in the water, the team was able to capture the three turtles we needed for the satellite tagging research event. We brought one turtle from Venecia, which is located across the bay from the town of Padre Ramos, to involve members of the community who participate with the project in the satellite tagging event. Little is known about these turtles, but satellite transmitters have been part of a groundbreaking research study that has changed how scientists view the life history of this species. One finding that surprised many turtle experts was the fact that these hawksbills prefer to live in mangrove estuaries; up till then most believed they almost exclusively lived in coral reefs.
A few dozen people gathered around as our team worked to clean the turtle’s shell of algae and barnacles. Next, we sanded the shell to provide a rough surface on which to glue the transmitter. After that, we covered a large area of the carapace with layers of epoxy to ensure a tight fit. Once we attached the transmitter, a piece of protective pvc tubing was placed around the antenna to protect it from roots and other debris that might knock the antenna loose. The final step was to paint a layer of anti-fouling paint to prevent algae growth.
Next, we headed back to Venecia to put two more transmitters on turtles near the project hatchery, where hawksbill eggs are brought from around the estuary to be protected until they hatch and then are released. The tireless efforts of several local “careyeros” (the Spanish term for people who work with the hawksbill, known as “carey”) was rewarded with the opportunity to work with cutting edge technology on this important scientific study. Their pride in their work was obvious in their smiles as they watched the two turtles make their way to the water once the transmitters were attached.
Turtle conservation in Padre Ramos is more than just attaching electronics to their shells. Most of the work is done by the careyeros under the cover of darkness, driving their boats throughout the estuary looking for nesting hawksbills. Once one is found, they call the project staff who attach a metal ID tag to the turtles’ flippers and measure the length and width of their shells. The careyeros then bring the eggs to the hatchery and earn their pay depending on how many eggs they find and how many hatchlings emerge from the nest.
It was only a couple of years ago that these same men sold these eggs illegally, pocketing a few dollars per nest to give men unconfident in their libido an extra boost. Now, most of these eggs are protected; last season more than 90% of the eggs were protected and more than 10,000 hatchlings made it safely to the water through the work of FFI, ICAPO, and their partners. These turtles still face several threats in the Padre Ramos Estuary and throughout their range. Locally, one of their biggest threats is from the rapid expansion of shrimp farms into the mangroves.
One of the tools that FFI and ICAPO hope to use to protect these turtles is to bring volunteers and ecotourists to this beautiful spot. A new volunteer program offers budding biologists the opportunity to spend a week to a few months working with the local team to manage the hatchery, collect data on the turtles, and help to educate the community about why it’s important to protect these turtles. For tourists, there is no shortage of ways to fill both days and nights, from surfing, swimming, participating in walks on the nesting beach, hiking, and kayaking.
On my final morning in Padre Ramos, I woke up early to be a tourist, hiring a guide to take me on a kayaking excursion through the mangrove forest. My guide and I paddled across a wide channel and up through increasingly narrow waterways that challenged my limited ability to navigate. Halfway through, we stopped at a spot and walked up a small hill with a panoramic view of the area.
From above, the estuary, which is protected as a natural reserve, looked remarkably intact. The one obvious blemish was a large rectangular shrimp farm that stood out from the smooth curves of the natural waterways. Most of the world’s shrimp is now produced this way, grown in developing countries with few regulations to protect the mangrove forests that many creatures depend upon. While crossing the wide channel on the to return trip to town, a small turtle head popped up out of the water to take a breath about 30 feet in front of me. I like to think it was saying “hasta luego”, until I’m able to return again to this magical out of the way corner of Nicaragua.
Want to get involved?
Visit FFI to learn more about Nicaragua’s key species, leatherback, hawksbill and olive ridley sea turtles.
Volunteer with this project! Help local researchers manage the hatcheries, tag turtles, and release hatchlings. The cost is $45/day which includes food and lodging.
Make a donation here. SEE Turtles supports this work through donations, helping to recuit volunteers and educating people about threats sea turtles face. Every dollar donated saves 2 hawksbill hatchlings!
Brad Nahill is a wildlife conservationist, writer, activist, and fundraiser. He is the Director & Co-Founder of SEEtheWILD, the world’s first non-profit wildife conservation travel website. To date, we have generated more than $300,000 for wildlife conservation and local communities and our volunteers have completed more than 1,000 work shifts at sea turtle conservation project. SEEtheWILD is a project of The Ocean Foundation. Follow SEEtheWILD on Facebook or Twitter.
Life kind of slows down when you sip hot chocolate. It’s almost like the cup you hold in your hand creates a barrier to noise, interruptions, and worries. You become mellow and in love with the world. What’s that? You don’t experience this when you drink hot chocolate? Hmmm… maybe that’s because you haven’t tried this recipe.
It’s rich. It’s decadent. It’s life changing. Set your cell on silent, light every candle in your house and get yourself to the kitchen. It’s time you experienced Hot Chocolate Bar bliss!
HOT CHOCOLATE BAR
1 smooth milk or dark 3oz. Endangered Species Chocolate bar, chopped
1oz. water, room temperature
1 tablespoon hot water
1 1/2 cup hot milk
In a double boiler over low heat, combine chocolate and 1oz. room temperature water until melted. Stir until smooth.
Remove from heat. Whisk in 1 tablespoon hot water. Stir in milk (you may wish to use less milk than the recipe calls for. Experiment.) Pour into 2 demitasse cups. Smell, sip, savor. Sweeten to taste if needed.
Creates 2 servings.
Question: To garnish or not to garnish? Comment below on how you top off your cup of hot chocolate.
Some Endangered Species Chocolate Bars (like the Wolf, Bat, and Panther) already have a Halloween vibe about them…featuring creatures that prowl in the night. But other flavors (think Otter, Chimp, Sea Turtle) aren’t exactly the type of treat you’d give to a friend on Halloween…UNLESS you gave it a costume! Here are two simple ways to dress up your chocolate bars for Halloween.
THE BAT BAR
- Black construction paper
- 3oz. Endangered Species Chocolate Bar
- Goggly eyes (or draw your own!)
Cut your black construction paper in a bat shape using this template (or freehand it if using a chocolate bar that is a different size).
Lightly glue chocolate bar into the center of the bat shape.
Affix googly eyes to the head of the bat with glue.
Finally, fold the wings in over the chocolate bar and spot glue them into place.
Mummified Chocolate Bar
Now that you’ve mastered the Bat Wrap, give this mummy chocolate bar costume a try! Instructions can be found at The Idea Room, a great place to get all sorts of fun, crafty inspiration!
Helpful Mummy Tip: cut crepe paper in half lengthwise to make a skinnier “bandage” – makes it much easier to wrap around the chocolate bar.
Recently, chocolate has gone from sinner to savior as an onslaught of chocolate-centric research reveals that there are benefits to scored with each sweet bite. But not all chocolates are created equal. Different chocolates contain different amounts of the magic ingredient, flavanols (aka antioxidants that gobble up destructive molecules). As a general rule, the more bitter (the chocolate) the better (for our bodies). Here’s how the sweet stuff stacks up…
With fewer flavanols than dark, milk chocolate isn’t a top choice if your indulgence goal is to reap healthful antioxidants. You can pump up the health factor by selecting milk chocolate that has a high cocoa content (aim for 40+%) and fruit or nut inclusions to boost the good-for-you ingredients.
Try: Endangered Species Milk Chocolate with Cherries ($2.99 for 3oz). This bar boasts a 48% cocoa content and the cherries add an extra little dose of antioxidants.
Sigh. Sorry. This confection doesn’t contain any cacao at all! But chocolate is really all about pleasure, right? So smile and indulge (in moderation, of course).
Try: Divine White Chocolate with Strawberries. The strawberries, dried at the peak of ripeness, will add a dose of antioxidants to your sweet treat.
The good news – you should probably be eating dark chocolate on a regular basis because this stuff is pretty darn good for you! The bad news? It only takes a little bit of dark chocolate per day to reap the benefits, so indulge in moderation. Since my official title is Chocolate Goddess, not Chocolate M.D., leap to these links to get solid info on how dark chocolate can protect you from UV damage, boost your cardiovascular health, and even lower your blood pressure.
Try: Endangered Species Chocolate 88% Dark Chocolate. ($2.99 for 3oz). It’s our highest cocoa content chocolate bar…remember, the bitter the better!
The Endangered Species Act is one of the most successful environmental laws in U.S. history and is America’s primary tool for protecting biodiversity. Its purpose is to prevent the extinction of our most at-risk plants and animals, increase their numbers, and restore them to a full recovery. Currently, the Act protects more than 1,900 species.
STRENGHT OF THE ACT
Very few species have gone extinct once granted protection under the Act.
The longer a species is listed under the Act, the more likely it is to be recovering.
Species with “critical habitat” designation under the Act are twice as likely to recover than those without this designation.
Bald Eagle – increased from 416 to 9,789 pairs between 1963 and 2006
Whooping Crane – increased from 54 to 513 birds between 1967 and 2006
Kirtland’s Warbler – increased from 210 to 1,415 pairs between 1981 and 2005
Peregrine Falcon – increased from 324 to 1,700 pairs between 1975 and 2000
Gray Whale - increased from 13,000 to 26,635 whales between 1968 and 1998
Grizzly Bear – increased from 224 to 500+ bears between 1975 and 2005
Source: Center for Biological Diversity
May 18th is Endangered Species Day. What endangered species are you most passionate about saving?
We just wrapped up an Earth Day sweepstakes on Facebook, Win a Feel Good Moment, where we offered a chance to win $1000 for the non-profit of the winner’s choice. Choosing an eco-charity to support is a difficult one – there are so many great ones out there! We know this firsthand. To fulfill our 10% GiveBack Promise, we scour stacks of applications and dig deep into each organization. Here are shortcuts we’ve learned along the way to help you narrow down your choices and match up with the perfect conservation org:
1. PINPOINT YOUR CAUSE. Whether you’re interested in wildlife preservation, land conservation or climate change, there are resources to help you find an environmental org that supports your interests. Spend some time with a search engine to get a sense of the organizations out there that share your environmental concerns.
2. CHECK THEIR PERFORMANCE. Once you have a handful of organizations that speak to your eco concerns, Charity Navigator (for larger charities) and Better Business Bureau Giving Alliance (for local giving) are great places to dig deeper. These sites offer free tools to evaluate the financials, accountability and transparency of non-profits. With a few simple clicks, you’ll know which charities are trustworthy.
3. GET TO KNOW THEM, THEN JOIN THEM. Now that you’ve honed in on groups that mesh with your ideals, visit their websites. Sign up for their newsletters. Follow them on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc). You’ll quickly gain an understanding of the scope of their work and involvement with their members. A good match will make you feel good, excited and involved in making an impact.
What advice would you give to someone who’s looking for a charity to support? Comment below and share your experiences.
March is national Nutrition Month; a great opportunity to assess your diet and get reacquainted with sound eating habits. So as you prep your plate with leafy greens and bright red fruits. don’t forget to add a touch of brown – chocolate brown, that is! We all have a need for something sweet and dark chocolate is a healthful way to indulge that desire. Scientific research shows that dark chocolate in small amounts can promote heart health, help cells resist damage from free radicals, and even help you better cope with stress.
Want to reap the maximum benefits from chocolate? Keep these 3 things in mind when selecting chocolate:
1. Aim for chocolate that has a 70% cocoa content or higher.
2. Make sure the first ingredient listed is chocolate liquor or cocoa (not sugar).
3. Choose natural and organic chocolate for a healthier planet and healthier you!
Cocoa contents of our dark chocolate at Endangered Species Chocolate range from 70-88%, chocolate liquor is the first ingredient listed on the nutritonal panel, and we offer natural and certified organic chocolate selections. Healthful never tasted so good!
What’s your preferred cocoa content?
This recipe is one of my favorites! It’s easy, quick and most likely you already have all these ingredients on hand. These cookie bars travel well – a great way to pack a bit of homemade love on your next hike, picnic or packed lunch.
Oatmeal and Chocolate Chunk Cookie Bars
- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup uncooked oatmeal
- 1 bar (3oz.) Endangered Species Chocolate Dark Chocolate with Almonds & Cranberries, coarsely chopped into 1/4″ chunks
- 1/2 cup almonds, coarsely chopped (optional)
PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees F.
CREAM together butter and sugars. Add egg and vanilla. Add flour, salt and oats. Stir in chocolate and almonds.
SPRAY an 8″ square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Pour mixture into baking dish and spread evenly.
BAKE for 35-40 minutes, until top is slightly browned. Let cool. Cut into twelve 2″ squares or 24 bars.
Want another on-the-go homemade chocolate snack? You’ll use three 3oz Endangered Species Chocolate bars in this recipe, Dark Chocolate Macadamia Nut Bark with Sea Salt.
What is your favorite dessert to take on outdoor adventures? Share by commenting below.
Over the years, I’ve managed to alienate boyfriends, good friends, my husband and (for shame) my 5-year old son with my die hard S’more beliefs. So be forewarned, I fear I may come off a tad pretentious in this post.
S’mores are seriously delicious and should be approached with as much culinary mastery as you can muster in the woods. Making a stellar S’more comes down to perfecting two things: your chocolate choice and marshmallow roasting technique.
Be it bitter sweet or true blue milk, the key is to find a quality chocolate that has the perfect thickness – or should I say thinness. The chocolate needs to be thin enough to be able to melt under the fleeting heat of a marshmallow. I swear by bite-sized chocolate squares(like these from Endangered Species Chocolate).
Repeat after me, “coals are key.” Unlike flames, coals slowly heat the marshmallow from the inside out, producing a hot gooey center under a toasty brown crust. For the love of the great outdoors, do not set deliberately set your marshmallow ablaze over the flames of the fire! As kids, we all experienced this camping faux pas, blew out the flame and ate the evidence. People that claim to love the taste of charred marshmallow, in my opinion, are confusing good taste with childhood nostalgia.
See, told you I would come across a tad persnickety. But surely there are others out there that hold strong opinions (aka love) for the S’more. I implore you – comment below and share your S’more techniques. Show my husband and child that I am not the only one that can kill a campfire kum ba yah vibe when S’mores aren’t taken seriously!
For ideas on dressing up your S’mores, throwing a S’more party and more, visit Endangered Species Chocolate’s S’mores photo albumon Facebook.
Hypnotizing isn’t he? Meet the Siau Island tarsier, the newest animal species to be designated as critically endangered on International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List of Threatened Species. Inhabiting a small Indonesian island, this saucer-eyed primate has to keep its eyes on two big threats – an active volcano that could wipe our its habitat at any moment and islanders that have a keen taste for tarsiers (locals regularly serve “tola-tola” as a popular snack). The Siau Island tarsier’s critically endangered status sounds an alarm…calling attention to the possibility to its imminent demise.
The world’s most comprehensive inventory of plant and animal conservation status, the Red List classifies species into seven categories, ranging from “least concern” to “extinct.” As you can imagine there is a plethora of scientific data that goes into carefully defining these categories – we’re talking endless pages of graphs, charts and confusing jargon. Here’s my simple, layman’s language interpretation* of IUCN’s species categories.
*my status descriptions are in no way endorsed or approved by the smart volunteer force at IUCN. IUCN’s categories and criteria specs can be read in detail here.
LEAST CONCERN (LC) | Species in this category are widespread and abundant. Let’s continue to take good care of these guys, everyone!
NEAR THREATENED (NT) | Watch out! Plant and animals included in this category are close to qualifying for a threatened category in the near future.
VULNERABLE (VU) | An observed or suspected population reduction means this species needs extreme care and support to protect it from becoming endangered. Being vulnerable isn’t a good feeling, is it?
ENDANGERED (EN) | Facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. It is time to muster up compassion and action RIGHT NOW to save these species!
CRITICALLY ENDANGERED (CR) | A species’ numbers have decreased, or will decrease, by 80% within three generations.
EXTINCT IN THE WILD (EW) | Sadly, these species can only be found in captivity or naturalized populations outside their natural range.
EXTINCT (EX) | No longer in existence. Gone. Forever.
THE TWEET FEED
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- RT @smokey_bear: Going on a #nature walk to celebrate #EarthDay, but first let me take a #GlobalSelfie. #selfie #OnlyYou http://t.co/pq4dGK…