Recently I spent two months in Nicaragua visiting the field sites where we will shortly be starting our research programs. I spent quite a big of time visiting sea turtle nesting beaches, hatcheries, and meeting with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that perform sea turtle conservation work in Nicaragua. While sea turtles are not our only focus, they are a large part of our research plan for the next several years. One thing Central America needs is a comprehensive Sea Turtle Health Network. Our organization proposes that in addition to the health evaluations we have planned with partner organizations on their sea turtle populations, that a network is formed uniting NGOs in monitoring sea turtle health. As of now, there is not a comprehensive reporting system for ill or dead sea turtles found, nor a response strategy for injured or ill sea turtles that require rehabilitation. This makes it difficult to investigate large die offs or epidemics in sea turtles in the Central American region, and in Nicaragua and El Salvador particularly.
Our proposal includes pilot research into basic sea turtle health in the region in order to inform further disease studies, creating a website and central reporting structure for ill or dead sea turtles, and training in-country workers in how to collect samples from sea turtles and information on sea turtle disease.
Stay tuned for our next blog post, where I will talk about performing a necropsy (autopsy) on a dead sea turtle that washed up on the beach while I was visiting a nesting site in Ostional, Nicaragua!