Though Central America has some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world, years of forest degradation and habitat loss coupled with the exotic wildlife trade have threatened the survival of species throughout the region (Read more about Endangered Wildlife). Three species are emblematic of Paso Pacifico’s conservation efforts: 1) Sea turtles (Leatherback, Hawskbill, Green, and Olive Ridley species), 2) the Black-handed Spider Monkey, and 3) the Yellow-naped Amazon Parrot. Because the health of species often indicates the health of their habitats (and vice versa), close monitoring of these species helps inform our programs and design corridor pathways. Protection of these charismatic animals is central to promoting our goals of environmental awareness and conservation action throughout Nicaragua.
The beaches of Nicaragua’s Pacific Slope have served as the nesting grounds for four species of endangered sea turtle for thousands of years. Yet decades of illegal egg poaching along these beaches, combined with destructive fishing practices across the Pacific Ocean have depleted these populations. Today, Hawksbill, Leatherback, and Green sea turtle populations teeter on the edge of extinction.
Paso Pacifico employs eight local people, some of whom are former egg poachers, to work as wildlife rangers who protect priority sea turtle nesting beaches. For the past three years, these rangers have formed “the thin green line” in the struggle to avoid sea turtle extinctions.
At beaches that lie outside of the ranger program, Paso Pacifico supports community members who voluntarily protect nests through a performance-based incentive program. Individual community members receive a payment for every sea turtle that is successfully hatched as a result of their protective measures, turning the incentive to poach nests into an incentive to protect them. The program has already paid thousands of dollars to local people as a direct reward for conservation efforts. A priority beach within the program is managed solely by local women, demonstrating that women are powerful leaders and advocates for their environment.
The Paso del Istmo is home to one of the only known populations of Spider Monkeys in western Nicaragua. Paso Pacifico partners with farmers and landowners to protect habitat and collaborates with international scientists to study the gene flow and behavior of spider monkeys. We have recently initiated a program to monitor spider monkey populations and to improve habitat protection in partnership with Private Reserves. This program is supported by various partners including the USFWS International Programs, Wildlife Without Borders and the Nicaraguan Private Reserve Network.
In early 2010, the Karen Warren and Susan White Spider Monkey Sanctuary and Education Center was established to provide a home to five Black-handed Spider Monkeys that had been illegally taken from the wild. The Sanctuary and the associated education programs is funded by Karen Warren and Susan White, two women who are passionate about animal welfare. Later this year, children in our Environmental Education program will begin visiting the Sanctuary to learn more about these special animals and about the merits of responsible wildlife treatment.
Though the Yellow-Naped Parrot is native to the forests of Nicaragua, less than 50 pairs remain in the Paso del Istmo Biological Corridor. Parrot poaching, a livelihood that arises in the face of poverty, is one of the main causes of the bird’s decline. By offering alternative economic opportunities through sustainable agriculture and eco-tourism, Paso Pacifico hopes to promote the protection of the Yellow-Naped Parrot and other wildlife.
Habitat destruction also threatens to eliminate the Yellow-Naped Parrot. The cutting down of the Javillo tree—the preferred nesting spot for these parrots—hinders the parrot’s potential for successful reproduction. Through Paso Pacifico’s reforestation efforts and hands-on environmental education programs, we are striving to repopulate nesting grounds and promote the parrots’ preservation.
One of Paso Pacifico’s most successful environmental education programs has been the Binocular-for-Slingshot Exchange. The program encourages children to exchange their slingshots, which are used to taunt birds and other small animals, for new binoculars; thereby, children replace an object of torment with a tool for discovering the wonder of native species.
Read more about the species we study and protect.
PO Box 1244 • Ventura, CA 93002-1244
Carretera a Masaya Km 12.4
Residencial Villas del Prado, Casa No. 7
© 2006 Paso Pacífico