Freelance journalist Jimmy Tobias traveled to El Salvador at the beginning of 2017 to report on the social movement our partners have been leading in the Lower Lempa. Read on for a teaser of his fantastic piece “The Turtle Liberation in El Salvador,” published in the most recent issue of Pacific Standard.
A boy leaps from the flat-bottomed boat onto a spit of sandy beach along El Salvador’s Pacific Coast. A few dozen others—fishermen, frenetic children, harried mothers in tank tops and flip-flops—disembark behind him. They’ve come from the nearby hamlet of Isla Montecristo, where cashew trees hug carless streets and porches hang with hammocks. They’ve come to witness an uncommon occasion. They are here for the turtle liberation.
Gio Díaz, a lithe young man in a blue bathing suit and a black baseball cap, turns off the boat’s engine and wades ashore. He leads the group to a rudimentary hut overlooking the ocean, its tin roof offering respite from the simmering January sun. Díaz and a few older men pull six large green buckets from inside and, within seconds, a small army of children descends on them.
The kids, who’ve come by boat from the village, crowd around the buckets. They giggle and squeal and gently touch the teeming creatures contained inside. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of tiny, sleek black-green sea turtles. The soft slapping of their flippers sounds like gentle rain on a roof.
These infant turtles are lucky to be alive. They’re olive ridleys, and, like the six other sea turtle species still alive on Earth, they face harrowing threats to their survival. From the destruction of their coastal habitat, climate change, and entanglement in marine debris, their numbers have declined by at least 30 percent in recent decades, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature declares them vulnerable to extinction on its Red List of Threatened Species. They face extra peril in El Salvador, where the consumption of turtle eggs is a long-time culinary tradition and people comb the beach collecting eggs to sell at market.
In this part of the country, though, baby turtles have bodyguards.
Read the rest of “The Turtle Liberation in El Salvador” on the Pacific Standard website here.