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Treasures from the Tides

Talent seethes out of the pores of many of the young filmmakers that we are privileged to welcome onto our media programs in Africa. One such person is Catherine Brookes. Alumna, Catherine was an intern in our 2015 wildlife filmmaking program. On this auspicious week,  containing the day of the turtle, I am delighted to be able to tell you about Catherine’s short documentary, “Treasures from the Tide”. The doccie focuses on a group of Salvadoran women who are fighting to protect endangered sea turtles from illegal egg poaching.

Across Central America, eggs are stolen from nests and sold illegally on the black market for human consumption. They are a local delicacy erroneously believed to be an aphrodisiac, and as such, are highly prized and sought-after. In Barra de Santiago, a remote fishing village in El Salvador, there is a turtle hatchery run entirely by women. They are members of the all-female community conservation group called AMBAS. Eggs are brought here and placed in artificial nests where they are safe from poachers. Once the hatchlings emerge, they’re released back to the ocean.

As well as running the hatchery, a crucial part of the work is to convert egg poachers from their local community, into conservationists. The hatchery employs locals as ‘tortugueros’, who spend their nights collecting eggs on the beach and bringing them back to the hatchery. Many of these tortugueros are ex-poachers. Tortugueros are paid at the same rate as they’d receive for selling eggs on the black market, but they must donate an extra two eggs per dozen to the hatchery for free. The program aims to instil good conservation morals in the tortugueros. There are fortnightly ‘Veda’ nights, where all tortugueros are encouraged to donate all eggs they find that night for free. The Veda night is a big event in the community and will feature in Catherine’s film.

When I asked Catherine what she was hoping to achieve, she said,

‘Through the film, I hope to raise awareness about a lesser known threat to these amazing creatures, and inspire more women to break stereotypes and stand up for conservation.’

Catherine is working with a California-based charity called EcoViva who support the hatchery. Their website is https://ecoviva.org/ if you’d like to read more.

If you’d like to read more about Catherine and what the self-empowered ladies of Barra de Santiago are doing, then you can learn more about the initiative here https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/bridgebuilder/ideas/saving-sea-turtles-through-community-empowerment.  If you’d love to help and become involved in any way, then there’s further information on Catherine’s crowdfunding page https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/treasures-from-the-tides/

Fiona Ayerst

23 May 2018

All photos by EcoViva and/or Emly Parker

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