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Juan Manuel Berroterán, relocating a nest in Veracruz de Acayo’s Hatchery, Nicaragua. Photo Courtesy of: Fauna & Flora

Date: June 10, 2024
Author: Anielka García Hernández/Fauna & Flora – Red Laúd OPO Communication .
Postulated by: Fauna & Flora, Nicaragua.

Born in Nicaragua, at 53 years old, Mr. Juan Manuel Berroterán, is the historical memory of one of the most important nesting beaches for the leatherback turtle in Nicaragua. 

During his youth, Juan Manuel was a person fully dedicated to agricultural activities and the extraction of sea turtle eggs, until in 2002 his life took a completely different turn when he was invited to participate as part of the sea turtle conservation project that would developed on the beach of Veracruz de Aacayo- El Mogote, which is located within the Río Escalante – Chacocente Wildlife Refuge, located between the departments Carazo and Rivas, this beach covers an area of 5.5 km where in addition to the nesting of leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) and Chelonia mydas, you can observe the magical event of the massive arrivals of Olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea).

He began alongside other community members in the area, learning and developing conservation tasks (beach monitoring, hatchery management, nest protection, etc.), however just in a few weeks it became very evident that Juan Manuel was a highly responsible, serious and committed person, the type of individual who is always willing to give a little more than his responsibilities demanded. This characteristics quickly led him to become the community coordinator in that same year 2002. (Interview with J. Urteaga. June 5, 2024) a position that he maintains to this day and that he has developed, leaving great merits as a legacy. 

The most important historical records on the presence of the leatherback turtle on index beach Veracruz de Acayo – El Mogote in Nicaragua are part of the achievements collected during 22 years of Juan Manuel’s dedication to leatherback turtle conservation. He has managed to protect 366 leatherback nests and has released 5,093  turtle hatchlings. In full season, has managed to patrol 142 days,  with the support of his staff, and also carries out census of nests once the leatherback turtle nesting season is over. 

Juan Manuel always expresses great enthusiasm to collaborate in the development of training not only on the conservation of sea turtles, but also on the conservation of soil, water and the nature that surrounds him. He promotes the non-use of chemicals, providing knowledge in alternatives obtained naturally and that are friendly to the environment, for pest control. His incessant work on the beaches leads him to promote environmental education workshops mainly on leatherback nesting. He also takes part in beach cleaning in nesting areas. In addition, he has supported the organization and training of other community and volunteer groups that work on environment protection.

“It is better to add up than take away”. Juan Manuel’s favorite phrase encourages positivism, reminding everyone that the most important thing is that our small or large actions contribute to a positive common ground in favor of nature and the community.

I met Juan Manuel in 2013, he is the bridge that connects the leatherback turtles with different actors at all levels in his community; this makes him appreciated and led him to become a councilor in his community. His commitment has no limits and this has motivated him to form a musical band with friends and family called “Los Triunfadores de Carazo”, composing songs dedicated to nature and sea turtles. The lyrics he composed are a call to people, and a reminder that sea turtles are part of God’s creation and that as such we must take care of them (interview with V. Gadea, June 3, 2024).

His plans for the future include dedicating himself to his family and continuing to support the protection and conservation of sea turtles and nesting beaches from his position as a councilor; continue to be a role model for other members of his community; continue supporting the update of the management plan for the Chacocente Wildlife Refuge; promote more festivals and maintain work around environmental education issues. Without a doubt, he is a tireless hero who has been contributing greatly to the protection and restoration of the leatherback turtle population.

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The Eastern Pacific Leatherback Turtle Conservation Network started in 2012 when over thirty researchers, NGOs, and regional experts came together to develop an action plan to stabilize and restore the leatherback turtle population in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.