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Environ Manage. 2006 Jul;38(1):84-98.

What makes them pay? Values of volunteer tourists working for sea turtle conservation.

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  • 1Nicholas School of Environment and Earth Sciences, Duke University Marine Lab, Beaufort, North Carolina 28516, USA.


As charismatic mega-fauna, sea turtles attract many volunteers to conservation programs. This article examines the ways in which volunteers value sea turtles, in the specific context of volunteers working with the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, at Tortuguero, Costa Rica. The complexity of volunteer values is explored using a qualitative approach. In-depth interviews with 31 volunteers were conducted in July of 1999 and 2000. Interviews probed, among other things, interest in sea turtles and their conservation, motives for participating, and the most gratifying parts of their volunteer experience. Results show that volunteers hold multiple and complex values for sea turtles, but particular values dominate. Results have implications for understanding human-environment relations and the emerging study of volunteer tourism. There are also management implications for volunteer programs hoping to attract participants.

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