Where We Are: ARCAS in Hawaii

(No, this isn't part of the Hawaiian Islands! It’s called Hawaii because when the founding father of this Pacific coast town first arrived 60 years ago, he had seen a postcard of the island of Hawaii and thought he saw some similarities.)
Guatemala's Pacific coast stretches 254 kms between Mexico and El Salvador and is made up of volcanic plains on which some of Guatemala’s richest agricultural lands and largest farms lie.

Because of this intense agricultural activity, the coastal plain - unlike the Petén region whose forests have remained relatively healthy - has lost much of its original biodiversity. However, the coastal fringe – especially its beautiful mangrove wetlands, lagoons and volcanic sand beaches – remains comparatively untouched, home to a rich variety of marine and bird life.

ARCAS's base of activities on the south coast of Guatemala is the Hawaii Park, a 3-hectare protected area on the beach,
Hawaii Park Guatemala

Hawaii Guatemala

2 kms west of the village of Hawaii and 7 kms east of the eco-resort town of Monterrico. The Park consists of a large, comfortable rancho with volunteer quarters, three smaller volunteer houses, kitchen, library/office, and bathrooms.

Environmental exhibits and trails highlight the threats to sea turtles and other natural resources of the area. Crocodile and iguana captive breeding pens lie just behind the main rancho.
Nearby are the yellow-naped amazon cages where these highly endangered parrots are bred in order to support the decimated wild population. On the beach are the three Hawaii sea turtle hatcheries, a turtle hospital and holding tanks, as well as a lookout tower for those spectacular Hawaiian sunsets.

Sea Turtle Conservation and Research

The Pacific leatherback turtle is unfortunately nearly extinct with only 2000 individuals remaining in the entire Pacific ocean!

In 1993, ARCAS initiated its conservation activities in the Hawaii area primarily as an attempt to counteract threats to leatherback and olive ridley turtle populations by over-harvesting of eggs by local collectors. Despite their endangered status, virtually all sea turtle nests in Guatemala are poached and the eggs sold as a supposed aphrodisiac; clearly not necessary given a population growth rate of nearly 3%.
Sea Turtle in Monterrico

Olive Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys olivácea)

Under its Sea Turtle Conservation Program, ARCAS operates the most productive of the 28 hatcheries in Guatemala. Under Guatemalan law, local egg collectors are permitted to harvest olive ridley nests as long as 20% of each nest is donated to a local hatchery.

The harvesting of eggs of all other species is prohibited. ARCAS solicits donations of sea turtle eggs from local collectors, reburies these eggs in the hatchery and after roughly 50 days of incubation, the hatchlings are released into the sea.

Volunteers also conduct nightly patrols and nests found on these patrols are buried in the hatchery. ARCAS also operates the El Rosario Hatchery in the small fishing village of the same name, 8kms to the east. Nearly 55,000 sea turtle eggs were collected at the Hawaii and El Rosario hatcheries in 2013, accounting for nearly 25% of all the eggs collected in Guatemala.
Tortuga at Hawaii

Leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriácea)

In collaboration with students and researchers from all over the world, ARCAS also carries out very detailed research on sea turtles, including ambient conditions in hatcheries and on the beach, hatchling success rates, crawl count surveys, DNA studies and open-ocean population monitoring.

In 2011 and 2013, it led efforts to document the mass stranding of hundreds of sea turtles on the beaches of the southeast of the Pacific coast. With the support of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Guatemalan governnment’s FONACON fund, it is carrying out crawl count populations surveys on 9 sites along the entire Pacific coast.

If you would like to participate in these research activities please contact us at [email protected]

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