Art for Conservation: The Leatherback Sea Turtle

As a conservationist, I spend my life studying and advocating for animals that don’t have a voice. Through research and habitat protection, The Leatherback Trust directly impacts the future of critically endangered and imperiled sea turtle populations. As we advance conservation through education and advocacy, art can be a powerful tool to help us communicate important messages to nearby communities, the broader public, and even policymakers.

Art speaks when words cannot suffice; it transcends all language, cultural and age barriers. In the case of leatherbacks, it’s important to bring these beautiful and elusive sea turtles to life out of the ocean for those who don’t have the opportunity to witness them in their natural habitat.

Our beloved Baulita, a life-size 96” bronze sculpture of a female leatherback, resides in Costa Rica at the entrance to Las Baulas National Marine Park, the last mass nesting beach for critically endangered East Pacific leatherbacks. Sculpted by artist Pamela Blotner, Baulita gathers Park guards, tourists, local guides, schoolkids, and surfers together around the statue. The statute communicates just how massive and magnificent these creatures swimming in the waters just off the coast and nesting on the beach each winter are. Informational panels accompanying the sculpture tell visitors about sea turtles and ways to help protect them.

​P. Blotner 2011.

A life-size bronze sculpture of a female leatherback, Baulita, that resides at Playa Grande's Las Baulas National Park.

Art opens the door to conversations on conservation. By drawing visitors in visually, Baulita begins a discussion about the need to protect EP leatherbacks and manage nesting beaches and their offshore habitat safely.

Costa Rica’s government recently used artwork to celebrate EP leatherbacks, with a stamp based on a photo I took of a nesting turtle. Joint efforts by the Costa Rican government and The Leatherback Trust have increased nest and offshore habitat protection for many sea turtle species. Now the message will disseminate via mail as these stamps go far and wide to stakeholders across Costa Rica and beyond, sharing the plight of the leatherback.

Special edition stamp commemorating Las Baulas National Park.

The Leatherback Trust also uses art as a medium for engaging the next generation of conservationists. Two twin 7-year-old girls recently expressed the need to protect leatherbacks through painting. Art speaks to people of all ages and improves understanding of complex or challenging topics.

Marine conservation and the fight to protect critically endangered East Pacific leatherbacks and other imperiled sea turtle species can be brought to life for those on dry land using artwork. Not everyone has access to the ocean, or can visit sea turtle nesting beaches. Communicating the plight of sea turtles can be challenging, but art is not only an effective tool for engaging conservation audiences, it’s a fun one too!

To learn about threats facing sea turtles: http://www.leatherback.org/thr...

To learn about our conservation efforts: http://www.leatherback.org/conservation

Share your own sea turtle artwork on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/leath...