Trade skills being used for sea turtle rescue

Date: 
Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Samuel Adams, a member of Millwrights Local 2736, has helped establish a sea turtle hatchery in Costa Rica.

Samuel Adams, a five-year member of the Millwrights Local 2736 with 10 years experience in the trade, heard about the problem facing leatherback turtles when he visited Costa Rica a few years ago.

Leatherbacks, one of the largest living reptiles on the planet, are on the top 10 list of endangered species, according to Scientific American. They are located in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans.

Sea turtles have been on the planet for 110 million years however human activity has caused the populations to crash with the global population declining 40% over the past three generations, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Only about one in a thousand leatherback hatchlings survive to adulthood.

limate change has brought rising temperatures and loss of habitat due to rising sea levels, beachfront developdevelopment has destroyed habitat, the turtles are harvested for food and export and are caught accidentally on hooks and in nets. Hatchling turtles have been prevented from returning to the sea because of the disorientation caused by artificial lighting.

Adams has always been interested in turtles, beginning, as a child, with red sliders and eventually having to buy a 100-gallon tank to accommodate them, he said.

He met environmental enthusiast Felix Charnley from the U.K. on a trip to Costa Rica and they have partnered with local biologist Claudio Quesada.

Adams used some of his earnings to purchase an abandoned 5,000 squarefoot mansion in the Gandoca Mananillo Wildlife Reserve, a four-hour drive north of San Jose.

With journeyperson tickets for millwright, auto mechanics, and welding, he used his skills to repair the building and create a hatchery. The facility supports other conservationists from around the world who arrive in the spring to collect data for worldwide research, conduct night patrols, and relocate the nests so they can be monitored for the 50-day incubation period. After the baby turtles hatch, the volunteers escort them to the water’s edge to ensure their safety.

“We had great success this year,” he said. “We had 500 leatherbacks and 200 hawksbill turtles hatch.”

But not everyone welcomes Adams and Charnley’s presence. “We’ve faced lots of interference from the government of Moín,” he said. And every spring, when he returns, he has to replace the steel bars on the windows and repair the broken water pipes. “It’s a little dangerous,” he said, “but we have support from the locals, and guided tours are starting to take off.”

Adams hopes that a tourism industry around turtle rescue can bring economic health to the community of Gandoca.

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