Bicycles Become Instrumental in Saving an Endangered Region in Nicaragua

Spring 2014 InGear

An enormous amount of our work here at P4P is based on reaching out to people and organizations for the support we need to keep our bike collections a success and our partners supplied with cycles and parts for maintenance and repair. When an organization initiates the contact, it tells us our efforts are working and we are making a difference. Most recently, it was Fumiji Aoki of the Turtle Conservancy offices in New York City who contacted David Schweidenback to arrange the collection and shipping of bicycles to rangers working for Paso Pacifico in southwestern Nicaragua. The difficulty in navigating the rough roads and changing terrain over long distances on foot or in the rarely available buses in this region make reliance on bicycles essential. P4P immediately got to work filling this need.

Rangers and bicycles for Christmas[3] We reached out to Kate Dolkas, a conservation associate based in Paso Pacífico’s offices in Ventura California, to fill us in on who is going to be using the bikes and how they will fit into the overall mission of their organization: “Our ranger teams comprise 20 men and women, 12 Forest Rangers and 8 Sea Turtle Rangers. All Paso Pacífico rangers are local residents of southwestern Nicaragua and many of them work as farmers or 2-3 hours away in Managua in addition to their employment with us.

“The rangers work in the Paso del Istmo, a narrow isthmus of land in southwestern Nicaragua between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific ocean. This area is characterized as dry tropical forest where an intense rainy season is followed by extremely dry conditions every year. Rich in biodiversity and a crucial corridor for birds, mammals and amphibians, it has been devastated by extreme deforestation, resulting in habitat destruction and migratory corridor disruption. Tourism is also increasingly affecting beach areas.

“Our forest rangers hike through dense dry tropical forest to monitor sites for signs and sightings of spider monkeys, migratory birds and parrots, amphibians and small mammals. They collect and analyze population data to provide us with baseline information about each species and help us understand how to better protect them from deforestation and climate change.

“The sea turtle rangers are instrumental in protecting the declining sea turtle populations that rely on Nicaragua’s beaches year after year to lay their eggs. They are responsible for patrolling beaches that are prime nesting sites for Olive Ridley, Hawksbill, Leatherback, and Green sea turtles. Turtle egg poaching is a common illegal activity in Nicaragua, and the rangers help to combat against this practice by patrolling the beaches at night when turtles lay their eggs and by implementing our incentive program in which poachers receive money in exchange for the eggs they attempt to steal. Sea turtle rangers also care for nests in Paso Pacífico’s sea turtle hatcheries, where they record the number of eggs that successfully hatch and the baby sea turtles that then make it to sea.

“Having the bikes is so special because all of our rangers live and work in the rural communities of the Paso del Istmo and many of them do not own vehicles or bicycles, causing them to rely on unreliable buses for transportation. The long roads that take them from home to monitoring and patrolling sites are primarily dirt roads that become mud pits in the rainy season and then dry into deep ruts carved out by large trucks and livestock.

“Prior to the P4P bike donations, rangers traveled to monitoring sites on foot, trudging through the mud and dust. Now that they have the new bikes, they can focus their energy on what’s important: Protecting the wildlife of Nicaragua. Thanks to Pedals for Progress, life is easier for the rangers who can now do their jobs more effectively.”

This is the kind of partnership P4P hopes to continue to develop and sustain across the globe. As long as we keep up our efforts and can respond to the growing need internationally for economic and ecologically viable transportation and employment options, we know we are making the right kind of mark on the planet.

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