Poachers to Protectors
Posted: May 1, 2023
Wooden stick? Check.
Johnny Manlugay has all he needs to hunt for sea turtle eggs on the beach in La Union, Philippines.
Mr. Manlugay is 55 years old. He knows all about spotting turtle nests. His grandfather taught him how as a boy. Back, then, though, his family was stealing the eggs from turtles to trade or eat. They didn’t know turtle poaching was against the law. Now Mr. Manlugay protects the eggs instead. He says, “I’ve learned to love this work.”
He carefully transfers each egg into his pail, dropping in some sand from the turtle nest too. Later, he’ll take his treasures to a group of people trying to save the turtles.
Five species of sea turtles live in the Philippine archipelago: green, hawksbill, loggerhead, leatherback, and olive ridley. Each kind is endangered. People kill them for eggs, meat, and shells.
How can people fix this problem? Turn poachers into protectors!
Conservationists have trained poachers to help save thousands of turtles.
“We talked to the poachers. And it turned out poaching was just another means for them to earn a living,” says Carlos Tamayo. He helps lead the group Coastal Underwater Resource Management Actions (CURMA). “They had no choice.”
Sea turtles lay 100 eggs to a nest on average. Around 35 or 40 of these nests appear each year around La Union’s beaches. Volunteers receive 20 pesos ($0.37) for each egg collected. That’s four times what they might earn from selling them. Now that’s a win-win!
Jessie Cabagbag used to work as a poacher too. Now protecting eggs helps him pay for food and electricity. He even made enough to buy a tricycle to carry passengers. This earns him more money. “I am truly proud,” he says.
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. — Ephesians 4:28
Why? Honest work comes with blessings. We can use these blessings to help others. Dishonest work causes harm.