History of Nature Seekers
During the decades of the 1970’s and 1980’s, the high slaughter rates of egg-bearing females created sufficient national concern to designate the nesting beach a Prohibited Area under the Forest Act (chap 66:01) in 1990 from 1st March to 31st August inclusive. As a result, the Wildlife Section of the Forestry Division engaged the Matura community in consultation to find a solution to this national problem. This integrated approach taken by the Wildlife Section of the Forestry Division and the community prompted a tour guide-training course which created awareness among community participants of the natural environment and the need to use it wisely for the benefit of the community.
It is from this training course the participants decided to stay together to form a nature-based group. This group was named Nature Seekers. Initially the majority of the community rejected this conservation strategy because some villagers believed that the prohibition of the beach would curb all their activities with the use of the beach. The Forestry Division later made the beach accessible to the community with the acquisition of a free permit.
Nature Seekers was now trusted with the responsibility to provide regular patrols to protect the turtles and to ensure they nested successfully. When this project began in 1990 there was no monetary gain and members of Nature Seekers functioned on a voluntary basis. This was done because it was difficult for us to obtain funding for a project people thought would never succeed. This was the time when Nature Seekers’ fundraising effort started developing. The government was so motivated by the efforts of the community that they commissioned the group members to perform beach patrols and to provide a tour guide service to visitors who purchased permits to visit Matura Beach during the nesting season. It took almost three (3) years for visitors to adapt to this change of using mandatory tour guide services.
During the first four (4) years of the project Nature Seekers walked the Orosco road (3¼ miles) every night to get to the beach from the community. On some nights patrols and guides were lucky to get a ride out with the visitors, other nights visitors were angry at them because they were not able to ride the turtle or even use the lights when they wanted. At the end of the fourth year Nature Seekers raised enough funds to purchase a vehicle to get to and from the beach.
Over the years this project demanded a tremendous commitment from Nature Seekers and it needed an all-night, every night attention for six (6) months every year since 1991. During this time the activities of Nature Seekers attracted and transformed eight (8) poachers and children of poachers into conservationists and they are the strongest members of the team. They were always willing to go out on patrols and conduct tours any time they were called upon. Thus they contributed the majority of volunteer work on the project.
Today, Nature Seekers is proud that the community is the nucleus of the leadership and management of this project. This uniqueness embraces the community as the main catalyst in the decision making process. It allows the community based organization to decide what should happen in the community regarding the protection of the natural resources with the technical advice and guidance from the Forestry Division and other important stakeholders. This involvement developed the initiatives of Nature Seekers to work towards the protection and conservation of the leatherback turtles and at the same time reduced the slaughtering of turtles on land from 30% to zero. When all other attempts failed Nature Seekers braved the opportunity that seemed pointless in the eyes of so many and developed strategies as they learned.
This could not have happened without the countless number of voluntary hours combined with the commitment and dedication of the members and it was done with limited resources, knowledge and experience.
Today the community is too small and Nature Seekers envisions a bigger playing field.