Local community perceptions of sea turtle egg use in Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Mejias-Balsalobre, Carmen, Restrepo, Jamie, Borges, Gilberto, Garcia, Raul, Rojas-Cañizales, Daniela, Barrios-Garrido, Hector, and Valverde, Roldan A. (2021) Local community perceptions of sea turtle egg use in Tortuguero, Costa Rica. Ocean & Coastal Management, 201. 105423.

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Abstract

Tortuguero is a small Caribbean village of Costa Rica, where sea turtles have always played a central role in the culture and economy. Historically, Tortuguero based its economy on the exploitation of natural resources, including marine turtles. However, thanks to long term conservation efforts, policy modifications and a change in the mindset of the community, this village is now globally recognized as an example of how marine turtles can be used to generate significant revenue in a non-extractive way, through ecotourism. Nevertheless, poaching of nests and egg trade still occurs in the area. This study identifies the perceptions and attitudes of the local community towards the consumption and trade of sea turtle eggs and its impact on conservation. From October to December 2017, a total of 187 questionnaires were distributed to the community of Tortuguero, and 17 semi-structured interviews were conducted with local key informants. Our results show that sea turtle egg consumption still persists within the community, and it is perceived as a frequent practice (Questionnaire Respondents (QR); 62.2%, n = 51/Interview Respondents (IR); 58.8%, n = 10). There is awareness among villagers about the negative effects of sea turtle egg consumption mainly on the economy (QR; 76.7%, n = 89), tourism (QR; 88.4%, n = 107) and conservation (QR; 87%, n = 107), and the practice is negatively regarded (QR; 77%, n = 107/IR; 76.5%, n = 13). Nevertheless, consumption continues as a traditional practice (QR; 26.7%, n = 28/IR; 41.2%, n = 7), facilitated by the ease to obtain eggs (QR; 19.4%, n = 20/IR; 76.5 n = 13) and the persisting belief of their aphrodisiac properties (QR 18.6%; n = 19/IR 23.5%; n = 4). Despite this and the perceived lack of enforcement, interviewees stated that most consumers do not risk taking the eggs and they buy them from local poachers (IR; 88.2%, n = 15), who are usually associated with substance abuse problems. In addition, most interviewees (94.1%, n = 16) affirmed that consumption in the community has decreased over the last 10 years, and that the majority of eggs extracted from Tortuguero are traded with nearby Caribbean communities (76.5%, n = 13). The destination of the eggs seems to depend on the area from which they were taken and prices range widely depending on the seller and the trade area. Overall, this study provides an improved understanding of the local perception of egg consumption and trade dynamics. Additionally, it provides insights into the challenges of tackling this issue in Costa Rica's Caribbean coast. We hope that our conclusions will contribute to the improvement of current conservation and management strategies in the region.

Item ID: 65135
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1873-524X
Keywords: Chelonia mydas, Illegal trade, Consumption, Attitudes, Caribbean basin
Copyright Information: © 2020 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Date Deposited: 01 Dec 2020 00:24
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410401 Conservation and biodiversity @ 50%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410404 Environmental management @ 40%
44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4410 Sociology > 441002 Environmental sociology @ 10%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960802 Coastal and Estuarine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 50%
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