In addition to his work conserving Guatemala’s sea turtles, Bernardo Chilin is an avid fisherman in La Barrona, a tiny coastal village that relies on the fishing industry.
Project Parlama’s headquarters are next to the hatchery, which Bernardo checks up on nightly.
But there are sea turtles. Lots of sea turtles during nesting season, from July to January.
Bernardo Chilin takes care of the turtles. He lives with his wife, Sonia, and their five children on the outskirts of town. They have a three-bedroom cinderblock house on land peppered with mango, coconut and tamarind trees.
A forest ranger at a nearby estuary, Bernardo has a coop of 200 chickens in his backyard. He sold about 40 of them to his neighbors on New Year’s Eve. Sonia is the ringleader for the town’s Avon ladies.
Bernardo has worked with the volunteer sea turtle conservation group Project Parlama, named for the turtle species. Guatemala is unique in allowing its communities to collect and sell turtle eggs, but only if they work with a local hatchery that incubates donated eggs and returns hatchlings to the sea.
Environmental management is bequeathed to the locals. But it was the five-person Project Parlama group from England, Spain and the United States that helped Bernardo build an 8-by-12-foot wooden hatchery along the ocean. Since 2005, they’ve used money from Guatemalan conservation organizations. Funding will run out next month.
In this Central American country, 75 percent of the population lives below poverty level, according to the CIA World Factbook.
When he finds eggs on the beach, he gently buries them in the hatchery. The eggs incubate for 46 days. He also checks for hatchlings, on the lookout for crabs, gulls and red ants hungry for eggs. He often sleeps at the hatchery for a few hours in a colorful hammock he made by hand.
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