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CURMA: Lifesaver of keystone species in La Union

Have you ever experienced watching turtles hatch from their eggs, and then in the next few minutes they will find their way to the sea? 
It’s magical to imagine that in the next 20 years, these turtles will find their way back to the very beach where they were born.
These magnificent creatures, which are known as the “keystone species,” resemble good luck, longevity, and wisdom in various cultures throughout history. 
As time passes by, they are poached for their beautiful shells thus bringing them to the brink of extinction.

Despite facing a less than 1% chance of survival, sea turtle hatchling heads out into the world with great zest.
Sea turtles are born instinctively knowing they are supposed to make it to the ocean but they are certainly not born knowing just how spectacular a sea is waiting just over the crest of the first wave.
There is something magical about seeing sea turtle hatchlings make their way across the sand and into the water, guided by their instinct to survive and thrive.

To combat poaching, more volunteer effort is welcomed like the CURMA or the Coastal Underwater Resource Management Actions.
CURMA is a marine turtle conservation program that protects an endangered keystone species from poachers and other predators. 
Project CURMA, which was organized in 2011, is running purely on volunteerism.
In the year 2010, Carlos Bhima Tamayo, the operations director of CURMA, discovered that they lived on a sea turtle nesting site in La Union and found out that poaching was prevalent.
At first, Tamayo and other environmental advocates were just erasing turtle tracks to protect the nests from poachers.
For years, it has been actively protecting sea turtle nests along the shores of San Juan in the province with great success, but each year, new threats to the survival of sea turtles ascend due to global warming, coupled with human interference such as marine pollution. 
“Realizing that poaching was mainly driven by financial reasons, we decided to help the fisherfolk who were the ones illegally hunting them for food and funds,” said Tamayo.
He said turtle eggs were being sold at P6.00 each at that time and they created an incentive program where poachers would receive P20.00 per egg that they turned over to them.
“Through supporting them, we were able to turn poachers into turtle patrollers and now they are our active partners in protecting the sea turtles,” he said.
To protect sea turtles, CURMA helped build bridges of partnership with the local government and private sectors.

Carlos Bhima Tamayo, the operations director of CURMA, considers seeing the provincewide arrangement of the community in the protection of sea turtles today as the most fulfilling.

Efforts to keep nesting sites conducive to sea turtles have turned into a collaboration among all concerned stakeholders including the tourism sector, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the local government, and the private sector.

At present, the conservation program is putting up a national training center facility to help replicate its program within and across the country.

“I would say that these sea turtles are a life changer, and it melts my heart as I touch these precious hatchlings, letting them reach the sea,” said Tamayo.

Indeed, it’s amazing how those tiny creatures instinctively have the courage to face the unknown.

Thus, be inspired by their bravery and take that first step towards something new while facing adversity. (JCR/AMB/KJCR, PIA La Union)

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Kathlene Joyce Ramones

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