The International Rotary Club San Miguel from Tegucigalpa arrived in Utila for their annual beach clean and tour of the local conservation organisations. During their visit, the Rotary club took a trip to the Iguana Station and helped prepare food for the juvenile iguanas, they conducted a beach clean at Pumpkin Hill beach, and also came to visit the Whale Shark and Oceanic Research Center (WSORC) to learn about whale sharks. They enjoyed a presentation about the biology of whale sharks, their habitats, the threats they face and their importance to the local economy here in Utila. The day ended with a snorkel tour and fish ID session under the Utila Lodge dock led by WSORC’s volunteers to look at the natural aquarium and artificial reefs.
The majority of the members of the Rotary Club San Miguel who arrived on Friday 13th September came from Tegucigalpa, were all young enthusiastic environmentalists between 20 and 30 years old. The objective of their visit was to contribute their time to helping the conservation activities of the environmental organisations on the island, that are aimed towards conserving the natural environment and preserving the biodiversity.
Their first encounter was with the Swamper Iguana (Ctenosaura bakeri), endemic to the island of Utila and inhabits the mangrove swamps of Utila. At the Iguana Station the Rotary club group were introduced to the conservation program that has been running for the last 20 years. They learnt about the captive breeding program which is in place to help the wild populations of Swamper iguanas recover from overexploitation, and they helped prepare the feed for the juvenile iguanas that are kept in captivity until they are of a size where they are more likely to survive in the wild.
The day continued with a beach clean at Pumpkin Hill, an important site on the island of Utila as it is one of the more favoured beaches where turtles come to lay their nests during nesting season. The Rotary club volunteers helped clear the area that was covered in a variety of marine debris; plastic bottles, old flip flops, tooth brushes, broken toys, and a whole host of mostly plastic pollution. By clearing away all this pollution, when the baby turtles hatch they are able to reach the sea without having to clamber over all of these obstacles.
The afternoon was dedicated to learning about whale sharks and their conservation status. To finish off the day WSORC volunteers organised a snorkel tour underneath the Utila Lodge dock. With over 40 species of fish and 2 artificial reefs, it is like a natural aquarium and the WSORC volunteers lead groups of snorkelers through the array of interesting species whilst helping them to identify what they were seeing with underwater fish ID slates. This snorkel tour was appreciated by all, and a successful way for the Rotary Club visitors to appreciate the underwater world and understand the importance of coral reefs to Utila’s natural ecosystems.
Thank you Rotary Club San Miguel from Tegucigalpa for coming to visit Utila and helping conserve the beautiful natural environment we have here!