On April 22, 2013, more than one billion people around the world will take part in the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day. Communities everywhere will voice their concerns for the planet, and take action to protect it. Here are some ways to connect and participate:
The History of Earth Day| Get a quick overview of the how and why behind Earth Day with this short WatchMojo video.
Photo by Abigail Alling / Biosphere Foundation
Message from our friend, Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, co-founder of SEETurtles, SEEtheWILD and LiVBLUE.
The sea turtles need your help! Six of the seven species of sea turtles are endangered and facing possible extinction. This week we’re kicking off Billion Baby Turtles, a project aimed at reversing this alarming trend and saving sea turtles.
Even if you don’t have time to read this entire post, please take a minute to visit, “like” and share our new Facebook page, where you can also enter to win an amazing prize pack of gear and goodies from sustainable brands including ENO Hammocks, Endangered Species Chocolate, Feelgoodz, Hydro Flask, Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics, Nature’s Path/EnviroKidz, Numi Tea, NUUN, Osprey Packs, prAna, and Tofurky. Enter here.
Now, a little bit more about the sea turtles and what we’re up to with Billion Baby Turtles…
If you’ve watched Animal Planet you know that odds are generally working against sea turtles. From the moment an egg is deposited in a sandy nest on a tropical beach, to the first time a baby turtle touches the sea, to decades later when she returns as an adult to lay her own eggs on very same beach, life is an endless series of life-and-death challenges for a sea turtle.
Nature is stacked against survival, which is why a mother turtle lays thousands of eggs during her lifetime in order to simply replace herself. Predators include dozens of species of crabs, beetles, ants, birds, fish, and sharks. Jaguars, pigs, wild dogs, and raccoons are even on the list of turtle eaters.
For millions of years, sea turtles handled it all just fine.
Yet, when you add modern humans to the mix, the balance suddenly tipped towards oblivion. Over the past century all seven species of sea turtle and their eggs have been hunted, carved, and eaten to the point that many populations are considered vulnerable to extinction. Getting caught accidentally in fishing nets and on hooks just adds to their woes. Throw in plastic pollution, boat collisions, and runaway coastal development on their nesting beaches and you’ve got a situation requiring intervention on a global scale.
But this isn’t a bad news story. That’s because over the past several decades a massive global network of sea turtle scientists, advocates, conservationists, and even lawyers has evolved to work day and night to bring them back. These heroes have been literally working around the clock, saving one egg-—one baby turtle-—at a time. At other times they’ll invest months to rehabilitate a single adult animal before returning it to the ocean. Every turtle released into the ocean is a moment of joy for everyone involved. It never gets old.
These projects are run on “Turtle Time.” Slow, steady, and tenacious wins the race. It takes as long as twenty-five years for a turtle to reach maturity, and return on that turtle-y kind of investment can come slowly. Turtle people are above all patient and hard working. Many projects have been steadily protecting turtles for more than thirty years. Their work is paying off. Some turtle populations are now on the rise after nose-diving to near extinction before that.
Photo by Neil Ever Osborne / SEEturtles.org
The Black Sea Turtle Project in Michoacan, Mexico celebrated its thirtieth anniversary this year and is experiencing its best season since its inception after watching the numbers of nesting female turtles bounce along the bottom of the graph for a decade.
Its sister project, Grupo Tortuguero, working to safeguard black turtles in feeding grounds a thousand miles away in Baja, is turning fifteen in January.
Turtle hunters and poachers in Mexico have had a change of heart and are now turtle protectors and guides. Everyone reports seeing more sea turtles in the ocean and on the beaches.
Now is not the time to let up, though. To get sea turtles back to their former abundance and to restore their ecological role in the ocean this is just half time.
We know exactly what to do. We just need to continue to execute the game plan.
Along with my friends Brad Nahill at SEEtheWILD and Fabien Cousteau at Plant a Fish, we came up with the idea of the Billion Baby Turtles, an initiative to help support groups working on the sea turtle front lines. To make a million more adult turtles we need a billion more baby turtles. It’s a one in a thousand situation out there, roughly speaking.
By creatively connecting individuals and small businesses with grassroots projects working to increase sea turtle production, we are helping overcome donor fatigue, burn out, and other second half challenges.
In the coming years we will collaborate widely to further expand the global sea turtle tribe, widen the base of donors through micro-philanthropy, and throw our support behind the men and women working for turtles on the front lines in their coastal communities around the world.
Forty years ago sea turtle pioneer, Dr. Archie Carr, described what it would take to save sea turtles.
In the long run, marine turtles, like the seas themselves, will be saved only by wholehearted international cooperation at the government level. While waiting for it to materialize, the critical tactical needs seem to me to be three in number: more sanctuaries, more research, and a concerted effort by all impractical, visionary, starry-eyed, and anti-progressive organizations, all little old ladies in tennis shoes, and all persons able to see beyond the ends of their noses…
That is almost legendary substance.
While high-level official negotiations continue, and the large agencies and organizations fight for pro-ocean and pro-turtle policies, why don’t we all do our small part for sea turtles?
A billion baby sea turtles?
Why don’t YOU lead one to the water?
Dr. Wallace “J.” Nichols is a scientist, activist, community organizer, author and dad. He works to inspire a deeper connection with nature, sometimes simply by walking and talking, other times through writing or images. He is co-founder of SEE Turtles, SEEtheWILD, & LiVBLUE among other organizations.
After 20 years ESC is celebrating in a big way! We have teamed up with the Non-GMO Project to extend our non-GMO verification to our natural chocolate line making all of ESC dark chocolate non-GMO verified.
We’re also extending our collaboration with the Rainforest AllianceTM to our natural line. Rainforest Alliance certification promotes the well-being of workers and helps their communities to adopt better farming practices.
We plan on continuing the celebration by having some more announcements later in the year so stay tuned!
When we announced The Xerces Society as one of our 2013-2015 10% GiveBack Partners, we were well-educated about their work. What we didn’t know was how incredibly passionate their supporters are! Since our commitment to donate 10% of our annual net profits to The Xerces Society, we have received countless emails and phone calls from members, thanking us. Their passion is infectious; my interest, piqued!
So, Xerces Society, what’s with the name?
This conservation non-profit is named after the Xerces Blue, an extinct species of butterfly. The Xerces Blue is believed to be the first American butterfly species to become extinct as a result of loss of habitat caused by urban development.
Bring back the pollinators!
Want to help bees, butterflies and other animals that help pollinate our planet? The Xerces Society’s Bring Back the Pollinators Campaign works with four simple principles that will easily turn your backyard into a place where pollinators can thrive! Become an expert at attracting beneficial insects to your landscape with the help of Xerces Society’s book, Attracting Native Pollinators: Protecting North America’s Bees and Butterflies.
Why their work is vital…
Of the more than one million species of animals in the world, 94 percent are invertebrates. They pollinate, spread seeds, recycle nutrients, and are a food source for wildlife. Without them – whole ecosystems would collapse. But these little guys are often overlooked with decisions are made about environmental policy and land management. The Xerces Society speaks up on their behalf through advocacy, policy, education and applied research.
Become a member of The Xerces Society. We promise – you’ll be in good company
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.
A new year brings two new flavors for ESC our dark chocolate with sea salt and almond and our dark chocolate with cherry are the newest additions to our 3 oz natural bar line. These new gluten-free bars feature a puffin and owl on the wrappers and were selected by our consumer’s after a month-long contest which was held over the summer on our website.
As we continue to develop new flavors in the future we want to know what flavors you would like to see added and what new animal’s you want to see featured on the labels?
As Endangered Species Chocolate has continued to expand its product offerings over the past few years, we’ve never had a place where we could try out new recipes without having to worry about invading precious production space. A small area in production was sanctioned where new product development took place…but that changed a few months ago when Endangered Species Chocolate converted part of an old storage area into a new test kitchen!
Our test kitchen gives us a dedicated space where we can get creative. This new space includes a tiny tempering machine to heat chocolate and stir in inclusions. A mini fridge cools down the chocolate and stores samples until they’re ready to be tasted…I mean tested.
This test kitchen has gotten a workout over the past few months! We’ll be introducing TWO NEW FLAVORS in January and a brand new product line (shhh – top secret) is in the works, set to launch in early 2014. So tell us, what would YOU cook up in our new test kitchen? Comment below with flavors you’d like to see from Endangered Species Chocolate.
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.
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