Protecting endangered turtles - Earthwatch

Protecting endangered turtles

The leatherback sea turtle population in the Pacific, once the stronghold of the species, has declined by over 90% since 1980. With support from Mitsubishi Corporation, David Ambrose joined an Earthwatch research programme in Costa Rica, protecting the nests of this endangered species.

Female leatherbacks dig nests on beaches by night and lay around 80 eggs. The eggs are at risk from numerous predators including human poachers. When they hatch, the tiny turtles are then vulnerable to boat traffic, fishing gear and more predators.

David Ambrose, a Trader for Mitsubishi Corporation, took the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join leading marine scientists in Costa Rica. Mitsubishi Corporation invests in opportunities for their employees to be at the frontline of leading conservation research including this long-established turtle protection programme.

As well as tagging adult turtles during night walks on the beaches, David supported vital conservation that protects vulnerable nests and new hatchlings. He was responsible for monitoring nesting turtles, moving nests from dangerous areas to the safety of hatchery incubators. When the new hatchlings emerged, David helped shield them from predators: “The expedition was a fantastic experience. The dedication of the scientists – and all volunteers – was excellent with a genuine excitement about helping these tiny creatures have the best chance of surviving.”

The researchers that David joined have been studying leatherback turtles for more than two decades and built the longest-running database that exists on Pacific marine turtles. This information enables researchers to understand migration patterns of leatherback turtles, as well as the impacts of beach developments, human activities, and climate change.

“The trip certainly achieved exactly what I had hoped it would. It gave me an insight into another world I had no previous experience of and highlighted just how easy it is to destroy something that has been on earth for 50 times longer than mankind has – and how hard it is to undo that damage.”

Each year Mitsubishi Corporation supports a number of their employees to join Earthwatch research projects around the world, to help them understand key environmental issues and how they can take action. This includes opportunities at the Earthwatch and Mitsubishi Corporation Global Coral Reef Conservation Programme. The Programme takes place in the Seychelles, Okinawa (Japan) and the Great Barrier Reef (Australia) and funds Coral Reef restoration and protection whilst supporting early career researchers, environment and conservation professionals.

David says: “I thank both Mitsubishi Corporation and Earthwatch for giving me this amazing opportunity and wish the project in La Playa Grande and other similar projects huge success in protecting these turtles for future generations.”

Inspired by David’s story? See how you can join Earthwatchers filling knowledge gaps on key marine species and the effects of climate change. 

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