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Reisverslag On the way to Guanahacabibes National Park
3 juli 2012
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On the way to Guanahacabibes National Park
Last Thursday was longer than others to me. I woke up very early because ahead I had a long way to go. Many geographers and poets have compared the island of Cuba with a big, green caiman. Well, I had to go from the back of the caiman (Havana) to the tip of it tail, an almost five hours driving ride to reach the Guanahacabibes National Park.
This park is the core conservation area of a Biosphere Reserve and it is home to some of the most important green turtle nesting beaches in Cuba and it also has wonderful diving sites. These and other attractions bring visitors to Maria La Gorda, a small resort located in the park. Turtle watch is becoming an important attraction, as more and more visitors arriving to the park during the nesting season show interest in watching the turtles.
Tourism can be an important source of financial support for conservation, but tourist activities can easily have a negative impact on natural areas and processes if not properly conducted. A sound, environmentally responsible tourism programme in any natural area requires well-trained guides, and proper information to and control of the visitors. They need to be informed because otherwise the ignorance can make them do ‘stupid things’.
The national park’s staff in Guanahacabibes started a couple of years ago, to guide visitor groups to the sea turtle nesting grounds. There, a well known and respected monitoring programme is being conducted since the late 90’s by the Centre for Marine Research of the University of Havana.
Nevertheless, some park rangers involved as tour guides lacked a comprehensive knowledge about the marine turtles and they had no formal training in turtle watch guiding techniques. It resulted in complaints by the University volunteers and staff involved in sea turtle monitoring activities. For example, the tourists sometimes were allowed to carry photo cameras, and everybody wanted to have a photo right besides a nesting turtle. The flashes of the cameras, the torches carried by the tourist and their exclamation of excitement, constitute an annoying disturbance to the turtles that need a quite, dark ambience to peacefully building the nests and laying their eggs. Also, if the turtles see any disturbance while coming to nest, they can rather prefer to lay the eggs in the sea than to risk coming to a beach that does not seem save for them, and the presence of humans, lights and noises are signs of alarm for them.
Aware of this situation, the Administration of the National Park contacted me and requested WWF support for training to their staff on marine turtle biology and turtle watch best practices. With the support of local scientists we organised a training seminar, the reason that brought us to Guanahacabibes this time.
To be continued...
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3 juli 2012 20:48 | Door: Maja
Thanks WWF Cuba, for your great updates!
It's wonderful to hear that turtle conservation is taken seriously worldwide and stretches even to the places that we don't usually hear so much from here in Holland!
Very good news for turtles and for all of nature.
Keep us posted on your wonderful work there!