GPS Turtle Eggs to Track Poachers

Prototypes of Paso Pacifico’s fake eggs. The small balls on the outside hold the GPS transmitter which will then be fit into the larger shells, forming the inner ring of the photograph. Photograph: Eduardo Bone via The Guardian

Last time we mentioned sea turtles it was also in the context of protecting them from poaching. These threatened ocean species lay eggs on public beaches and certain people enjoy eating those eggs, or even the turtle meat itself. Thanks to a great project by USAID called the Wildlife Tech Challenge, there will soon be a potential means to tracking where poachers are selling the illegal turtle eggs, as Jeremy Hance reports:

“Every year millions of sea turtle eggs are taken by poachers for sale on the black market. Paso Pacifico’s solution has the potential to reveal the trade routes and destination markets for trafficked sea turtle eggs,” the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) said.

The USAID recently awarded Paso Pacifico $10,000 for its idea through their Wildlife Tech Challenge, a contest to tackle wildlife trafficking through technological innovation. The Wildlife Tech Challenge is also supported by the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution, and TRAFFIC.

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When Food Unites

Vigorón served at El Gordito in Granada, Nicaragua. The combination of soft, starchy yucca; salty, rough pork cracklings; and tangy, cool slaw made with cabbage, onions, tomato, mimbre fruit (also known as mimbro), chile and vinegar offers a distinct interplay of textures and flavors. PHOTO: Julie Schwietert Collazo for NPR

Vigorón served at El Gordito in Granada, Nicaragua. The combination of soft, starchy yucca; salty, rough pork cracklings; and tangy, cool slaw made with cabbage, onions, tomato, mimbre fruit, chile and vinegar. PHOTO: Julie Schwietert Collazo for NPR

No matter how different our ethnic backgrounds, beliefs, views and values are, we can all sit around a dinner table and unite in sharing a meal that includes different tastes and types of food from all over the globe – the palate knows no boundaries and no limitations. In a divided country like Nicaragua, all differences melt when it comes to vigoron. The national dish that cuts across political ideologies, economic status, and strong preferences.

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Entrepreneurial Conservation Through Rockclimbing

Guest Author: Robert Frisch

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The burgeoning sport of rock climbing is an excellent example of how an adventure sport can propagate the conservation of natural areas through private sector initiatives.  In the early days of the sport, climbers would hammer iron “pitons” into cracks in the rock as they ascended, and attach ropes to them in order to protect against falls.  The pitons were not designed to be removed, and can still be seen on some of the classic climbs around the world.  Visionary thinkers such as Yvon Chouinard (of the Patagonia clothing and gear company) were unsatisfied with the fact that with each new climb, permanent scars were left in the rock, and set out to devise other means of protection.  Nowadays, climbers use removable “nuts” and “cams” that still protect against falls, but leave no trace in the rock.  In fact, rock climbers have even set up organizations such as the Access Fund that participate in conservation and land protection initiatives.  The sport has also helped to bring much needed revenue to rural areas as diverse as Slade Kentucky, Yangshuo China, or Sigsipamba Ecuador. Continue reading

Advice For Peace Corps Hopefuls And The Creation Of A Hotel

Guest Author: Robert Frisch

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My Peace Corps Location: Matagalpa, Nicaragua

As a former Peace Corps volunteer, it is not a rare occasion that I come across an eager undergraduate looking for some guidance on the decision of whether or not to join the organization.  I also receive many requests for tips on how to make the most out of the two-year volunteer program.  Over the years, I’ve narrowed down my responses to three main categories: Continue reading

Sledding a Volcano

One volcano-related assumption which I’ve had to let go of since arriving in Central America is that a volcano is a volcano.

Anyone who grows up in Scotland knows that mountains are not just ‘mountains’. There are mountains, but there are also ranges, hills, Bens, and Munroes. There are the kind that, although tall, the fitter of us can walk up without much in the way of equipment; there are others which may be smaller but are impassable unless you really know what you’re doing.

I wasn't expecting it to be so blue...

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The Oldest City in Central America

Pierre and I took a walk around Granada today with Mombotour guide Gustavo, a native of the colonial city. Our first stop was the San Francisco Monastery and Church, the oldest church in Central America, which has been converted (aha) into a museum of colonial and pre-Colombian history. Probably built on the site of an indigenous temple, the monastery later became a school, then the museum. It also recently underwent a restoration project, since earthquakes have especially strong effects on such old architecture as Granada’s churches.

Gustavo led us through each of the rooms containing an exhibit, such as ancient pottery, contemporary art replicating historical or cultural scenes, and zoomorphic stone statues. He explained some of the beliefs held by the indigenous groups, which were often influenced by northern tribes (Mayans, Toltecs, and Aztecs) and South American indigenous nations, as well as the Spaniards’ opinions of them. For example, the rain god was considered to have four sons at the cardinal points. Ritual offerings such as those depicted in this painting were thought to bring fertility to the soils. Spaniards were also quite surprised to see the symbol at the base of this statue, not knowing that it represented the cardinal points and not the savior. Continue reading

Sweet NicarAgua

This morning Pierre and I went on a trip facilitated by Mombotours, using Detour bikes and NicarAgua Dulce kayaks. Eddy, our guide from Mombotour, arrived after breakfast and drove us to Detour, the bike rental shop. We picked up three bikes and left Granada’s hub towards the shore of Lake Cocibolca. The Mombotour driver followed behind in the truck in case we had any bike problems or accidents. We hadn’t gone more than two or three kilometers when the truck’s presence became needed. I’d accidentally driven over some glass, and punctured my tire in two places with tiny shards. With the tools and spare tube in the truck we were able to fix this unfortunate damage within twenty minutes, and Eddy’s training made my negligible REI workshop experience unnecessary.

The rest of the bike trip, which lasted about an hour and a half, was without further perforations, and we enjoyed riding up and down muddy dirt roads, dodging stones and chickens along the way. The mountain bikes performed very well and changed gears fluidly, which is always a nice surprise. We rode down along a peninsula till Continue reading