In week 3 we move a few kilometers up the coast to ARCAS for a residential volunteer placement. ARCAS is a wildlife rescue & conservation association supported by the Guatemalan government with a primary objective to protect the regions most important seas turtles and to help ensure conservation of the last remaining mangroves in Guatemala.
Turtle Conservation & Research
Animal rehabilitation efforts focus on yellow naped parrots, orange-fronted parakeet, sweet water turtles, iguanas, the occasional caiman and pelican, and of course sea turtles - Olive Ridley (approx. 90%), Green and Leatherback. There are three ‘hatcheries’ at Hawaii beach (3 km from Monterrico), where volunteers will be based and a further one a little way up the coast at Rosario. Each hatchery can contain up to 200 nests; last year 80,000 eggs where incubated of which 80% hatched.
The official turtle season, including nesting, on the Pacific coast runs between June 1st and end of January and towards the end of the season, only baby turtles will be seen by volunteers. In the first few months of each new season, generally only nesting adult turtles are seen. The non-turtle months are February - April, but there is still a lot of work to be done in preparation for the new nesting season, as well as community projects, which run all year round.
You’ll be protecting the eggs and hatchlings of Olive Ridley, Green and Leatherback species, who visit this intensive nesting beach at night to nest. In Guatemala it is still legal to collect and sell turtle eggs. However, ‘Parlameros’ as the fishermen are called are obliged to give 20% of their catch to ARCAS in return for a receipt that certifies that they are permitted to sell the remaining 80% of their catch.
This makes it especially important for our volunteers on night patrols to spot turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs and mark the nest before the Parlameros mark the nest! The relationship between Parlameros and ARCAS is surprisingly friendly and cooperative however, and there are never conflicts regarding who spots and marks a nest first.
You will work between 6-10 hours per day (07:00-17:00) from Monday to Friday and 12:00-17:00 on Saturday only (time is subject to change). Your tasks include maintenance of infrastructure and surroundings, beach cleaning, night patrols to look for nesting female turtles (in season), transport of food and water, collection of data and releasing baby turtles into the ocean (in season). Turtles almost always nest in the dark, and on a moonless night during egg-laying season you have a good chance of seeing one in Monterrico.
Owing to the special work carried out at ARCAS the following house rules are in place:
- No mosquito repellent is to be applied for at least 2 hours running up to patrols or hatchery duty.
- No smoking is permitted near the hatchery or on patrols and ARCAS is an alcohol-free zone.
- Nobody is allowed on the beach after dark unless they are on patrol, and never alone.
- Respect hours of night patrols, and respect project coordinators, other volunteers and Parlameros.
- Please leave all tools and equipment clean and in their correct place.