Sea Turtles 911 offers 3-10 day school field trips for school groups looking to offer students the chance to experience conservation work firsthand. Students are able to gain hands-on experience with one of the world’s most ancient creatures: sea turtles. Since education is a major part of species preservation and restoration, students are exposed to many different aspects of conservation efforts throughout their stay. While on these visits, focus will be put on exposing students to the physical work involved in sea turtle conservation as well as to the community education that takes place. Students will perform all daily sea turtle husbandry tasks, as well as weigh and measure live sea turtles for records to be used in future research. Maintenance work on the floating hospital will also be performed as necessary, including changing nets, removing pollution from the environment, basic carpentry and painting of fishermen homes. Throughout the stay, various discussions and activities could take place at different locations around Hainan Island, including Haikou, Wenchang, Qionghai, Lingshui, and Sanya. These activities are aimed at making individuals think about extinction and conservation in a practical way.
Conservation Strategy Discussions and Plans
Human imposed threats to sea turtles are of the greatest concern to sea turtle populations in China because of the increased demand for sea turtle products. Everyday we are faced with the task of developing new ideas and strategies for combating the illegal harvesting of sea turtles. Having a variety of perspectives is valuable and necessary for a successful conservation plan. During the trip, the group will learn about marine turtle conservation problems and be asked to discuss the problem as a group to devise a solution or plan of action for the problem. The group will draw upon their motivation or inspiration from the activities with sea turtles. Creating a conservation plan will challenge the group to be creative and utilize their pre-existing knowledge and skills in an innovative way. It will advance communication, negotiation and leadership among group members. The group will then present Sea Turtles 911 staff with their solutions and we will then discuss the feasibility of the plan, make any necessary adjustments and put the plan to action.
Sea turtle conservation research is minimal in China and introducing research techniques to students is necessary as they may be the future sea turtle conservationists in China. Aside from basic measurements of sea turtles for growth studies, we will show students how to collect sea turtle skin samples for DNA analysis. We also tag sea turtles to give them an identification to facilitate conservation management efforts and students may have the opportunity to practice sea turtle tagging techniques on mock turtles. We have deployed satellite tracking tags to learn more about their migration, where they breed, where they eat, and where they are spending most of their time so that we can establish marine protected areas to save them. With our research partners from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), City University of Hong Kong, and Hainan Normal University, we have published satellite tracking research, which we will discuss with the group in more detail.
We believe it is a necessary step in any conservation setting to get involved with the local people to instill in them an appreciation for ocean diversity, as well as show them how working together to save sea turtles benefits the community as well as the environment. We can arrange community service activities per school request including but not limited to teaching ocean-focused English at the local elementary school to very excited and eager children. These local children will most likely have direct contact with sea turtles caught by their families, and so teaching them the basic concepts of sea turtle conservation becomes very relevant and important. Classes that involve a sea turtle theme have been successful because sea turtles are charismatic “cute” animals to children, serving as the perfect ambassador for the ocean environment, and easily garnering support for their protection. As kids learn about sea turtle conservation, they can affect their parent’s attitudes and behavior toward the environment. We have heard of true stories in which children have influenced their parents not to purchase sea turtle products and to discard trash properly. Teaching English to introduce the local children to foreign cultures and visitors makes them feel more comfortable among people from other places. This could also help them considerably in the future when they are looking for alternative jobs in the tourism industry of Hainan.
Experience Rural Chinese Culture
Students can be exposed to rural life during their time here. They can travel by local or private bus and taxi boats, shop in family owned stores, and sample the array of cultural food sold in family stalls offered every night. Students will also have the option to have dinner with a local Chinese family. This cross-cultural experience allows students to see a glimpse of what life in China is like. The fishing village is a rural area with limited options for specific needs. In such rural areas with rural food, some people do have digestive issues, so being armed with medicines to combat as such would be warranted.
The pollution in our ocean is killing hundreds of thousands of sea turtles and other marine life each year, as they mistaken it for food such as jellyfish. Some of the pollution wash up on the beaches and can be swept back into the ocean. Thus, your group will help clean up the trash along a stretch of beach. To be as efficient as possible in the cleaning process, the group can break up into different roles for collecting the trash and disposing it properly. When performing beach clean ups, visiting students may join with local students to clean trash off a nearby beach. By joining together, teenagers from two very different backgrounds will learn how they can work together to do something for the advancement of society.
Raising Public Awareness
Students can set up tables to raise awareness for sea turtle conservation in tourist areas, pass out fliers, and speak with tourists about not buying sea turtle products as souvenirs during their vacation. The more people who learn about the reasons why sea turtles are going extinct, the more turtles we can save, as people begin to adjust their own behaviors. We will train students on how to promote sea turtle conservation to the public, which they can continue to do when they return to their home school. Students can also build numerous sandcastles in the shape of sea turtles on the beach to raise awareness. Read this article from a past student group about this experience.
Sea Turtle Adoption and Release
The group will personally name their rescued sea turtle and have the opportunity to release their adopted sea turtle back to nature. This is a wonderful moment to witness an endangered animal given a second chance in life, returning home to the ocean. Releasing a turtle draws a lot of public spectators, so it also becomes a good opportunity to raise awareness to the public. During this time, it is also a great opportunity to raise public awareness by taking excellent photos and videos. After the turtle is released, students can share the photos and videos on social media to raise more public awareness online.
Groups also have the opportunity to take additional trips around Hainan Island to visit ecological parks, hiking mountains, rainforests, surfing, natural hot springs, Chinese temples, island hopping, Hainan ethnic villages, or simply lounge on the beautiful beaches of Sanya!
Locations Along the Coast
Our conservation projects extend throughout the coast of Hainan Island, which is often referred to as the "Hawaii of China." Hainan is a tropical island where mosquitoes are prevalent at night, so insect-repellents are recommended. The sun is bright and hot, so sun blocks are necessary and sunburn does happen. Our office is located in the capital city of Haikou, at Hainan Normal University's Life Sciences building. The largest turtle museum is located at the university, as well as our Sea Turtle Rescue and Research Center. In Wenchang county, we are working with a government sponsored aquaculture facility, in which hundreds of sea turtles are being captive-reared for conservation research purposes. While in Lingshui county, our Sea Turtle Hospital floats among other neighboring fishermen homes in a floating fishing village, where we raise awareness to the local fishermen community. Finally, in Sanya, an international tropical seaside resort area, we are working with hotels on ecotourism, such as tours to our Sea Turtle Shelter at the Ritz Carlton Sanya, which raises conservation awareness to tourists. The recommended arrival city is Haikou and departure city is Sanya, so you would be going from the North to the South of Hainan island, along the eastern coast.
Group Registration Requirements
Ideal group size for optimal hands-on experience is 10-20 students, however we have worked with much larger groups and can be arranged per request. We request a 4-week minimum group registration deadline prior to date of arrival. Because we only host one group at a time, we recommend reserving your school trip dates as early as possible. To register, complete the Program Registration Form. Please review our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). For all other inquiries or to register for this trip, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org