This big guy needs your help!

Five types of marine turtle exist on the Uruguayan coast, including the gigantic leatherback pictured here, but relatively little is known of their habits and population. Since 1999, a research station based on the far south-eastern coast of Uruguay has been studying their movements and protecting their population. This research station relies on volunteers to continue its work to promote education about the turtles, conduct investigation, and protect the reptiles from the various dangers that they face: fishing, tourism, water pollution, litter, and the collection of eggs and turtle parts for use as souvenirs.

Volunteers will complete an intensive Spanish course for a minimum of two weeks at La Herradura school in Montevideo. It is important to have some Spanish in order to communicate with the other volunteers and the research station co-ordinators, although many of the volunteer’s tasks will not require any particular language skills. During this time you can either stay in the school residence with other students, or in a homestay with a local family. You will then travel to the research station (about 5 hours by bus), where you will live and work as a volunteer for a minimum of four weeks. During this time you will stay at the volunteers’ shared accommodation: a simple, rustic wooden house next to the research station (drinkable tap water and internet available).

What is the volunteer’s role?  The research centre’s main objective at present is to determine the approximate numbers and general habits of juvenile green turtles in the zone, and the volunteer’s role is to participate in the daily collection of data, following the guidance of the research co-ordinators. This might involve:

Volunteers liberating a rescued turtle

  • Spotting and catching juvenile turtles
  • Undertaking long beach walks to survey for turtles
  • Assisting the researchers conduct post mortem examinations on turtle remains
  • Helping to care for the recovering and rescued turtles and their pools
  • Guiding visitors around the research centre and explain its work
  • Participating in talks and workshops with local people and tourists on turtle release days
  • Keeping the research centre clean and tidy, and cooking for the researchers and other volunteers
  • Representing the turtles project in public events like Carnival (early February) and the annual Save the Sea Turtle festival (late March)

During your volunteer program, you will receive three meals a day at the research station base, as well as your accommodation, and you’ll have one full day off per week.

Where is the turtle research station?  The research station is in Cerro Verde, in the province of Rocha. It is very close to the border with Brazil (about 25km), in the far east of Uruguay. Rocha is famous for its seemingly endless sandy beaches, great surf, unspoilt nature, and beach towns that some alive with parties and travellers in the summer months. So, the project is perfectly located if you want to combine it with a leisurely trip along the sunshine coast of Uruguay, or to embark on an exploration of Uruguay’s giant neighbour Brazil. The capital of Uruguay, Montevideo is 315km away and well connected by public buses.

How do I get more information/sign up?  Our website has more information about the intensive Spanish course, the turtles project, and other volunteer projects. You can also send us an email or enrol on a program through the site.

And finally, a few more pictures of the little green fellas…



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