The Barbados Sea Turtle Project (BSTP) is under threat with the conclusion of a grant from the organisation’s largest financier.
Director of Public Awareness and Education Carla Daniel told Barbados TODAY that the situation is particularly worrying just a few weeks away from this year’s nesting season, which runs from June 1 to November 15.
The U.S-affiliated three-year grant ended in April 2020 and efforts to secure assistance from other sources have been largely unsuccessful.
“It’s really a variety of factors and I think every conservation project would tell you that it is a scramble to get enough funding to run the project. It is a fight to get donations, a struggle to get sufficient resources and then there’s attracting volunteers and getting sufficient human resources to run the project as well,” Daniel explained, while declining to disclose the amount of the discontinued grant.
“The short-term picture is that we desperately need funds to enable the project to operate for 2020. However, there is a bit more of a longer term picture in which we no longer rely solely on grant funding and donations, because there is no longevity to that type of support,” she added.
Volunteers dedicate hundreds of hours annually to the conservation of the critically endangered marine turtle species around Barbados in research, education and public outreach. The project also monitors nesting females, juvenile turtles and hatchlings. Last year alone, 63,000 hatchlings were saved.
Despite having the second largest nesting population of Hawksbill turtles in the wider Caribbean, the local inhabitants are “one-step away” from extinction due to habitat loss, climate change and a myriad of other factors.
The financial challenges along with the current public health situation have already resulted in the shelving of some initiatives planned for this year. However, Daniel is at least hoping to maintain the project’s nest monitoring programme and the 24-hour turtle rescue hotline.
The project, will also be in need of more local volunteers given that persons who visit the island to assist will be unable to do so in the foreseeable future.
The conservation biologist more recently joined efforts to assist COVID-19 frontline workers. But she believes that even amid the ongoing situation, Barbados’ vulnerable wildlife should not be neglected. In fact, she argues such decisions could result in a more vibrant tourist industry when the international community reopens.
“While we are affected by this pandemic…there are certain things that are a part of us as a Barbadian society, like caring for our environment and wildlife and the animals that we share Barbados with. This is definitely not a case of taking attention from the plight of people,” she said.
So far, the Barbados Environmental Trust, founded by U.K philanthropist, Ben Goldsmith has pledged its assistance to the turtle project’s efforts to find funding from new sources.
Chairman Neysha Soodeen also revealed that former Coca Cola Chairman, Neville Isdell has already donated $20,000 to the effort.
Lauding the BSTP as one of the world’s greatest sea turtle projects, she stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the need for more attention to environmental issues and encouraged the public to give liberally.
“The world is now beginning to heal and there is a story there in and of itself. The world is breathing again and if we don’t take care of the planet, we won’t have someplace to live. Firstly, we need to take care of each other, but we need to take care of our turtles, our monkeys, the fish in the sea, the birds and we need to plant more trees.”
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