One of the Pacific's great conservation success stories.
Welcome to the Arnavon Islands, home to the South Pacific's longest-running species monitoring program. (All pictures © Bridget Besaw.)
Here, the Conservancy is working with trained local Conservation Officers (like Dickson Matui, pictured above) to help protect the nesting grounds of Hawksbill and Green sea turtles.
In the 1980s and 90s, sea turtles around the Arnavons were hunted almost to extinction, jeopardizing locally important populations of globally threatened species.
That's when the Nature Conservancy worked with local communities to forge a truce, protecting turtles and creating new jobs by installing conservation officers in the Arnavons.
Those conservation officers venture out very night during nesting season, relocating eggs to safer nests and helping baby turtles hatch.
The incubation of sea turtle eggs takes roughly 60 days. Here's a nest that's not quite ready to hatch.
...And here's a nest that just hatched!
The conservation officers quickly carve a trench in the sand, clearing a path to the ocean.
The hatchlings follow the conservation officers' flashlights to the sea, where they will attempt to elude predators and grow into adult sea turtles.
When full-grown, these turtles will return to the Arnavons to lay their eggs, making the protection of these islands all the more crucial.
Having safely escorted the hatchlings to the sea, the conservation officers stop to rest. They'll be patrolling for illegal fishers the next day and will be back to check on more nests the following night.
Their work is yielding big dividends. The number of Hawksbill sea turtle nests in the Arnavons has doubled since the conservation program's inception. Help support sea turtles!