Tortuga Squad
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Tortuga Squad: Kids Saving Sea Turtles in Costa Rica is a photodocumentary book by journalist and writer Cathleen Burnham, the second book in her WAKA (World Association of Kids and Animals) series of books featuring kids involved in wild animal preservation efforts around the globe.

In Tortuga Squad, we meet a group of youngsters in Costa Rica who patrol the beaches of Parismina Island, on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, to help protect mother sea turtles and their eggs from poachers and animal predators. The young volunteers watch for sea turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs.

It’s a dangerous place for turtles. Here, as in many places in the Caribbean, the local people living close to the water have traditionally eaten turtle meat and eggs as part of their diet. But many turtle species have become close to extinction. Poaching eggs and killing sea turtles for meat is now illegal. But some people still do it.

So the turtles need extra help. This is where the kids come in. Tortuga means turtle in Spanish, and Tortuga Squad is the name the kids gave themselves because they help save turtles. They patrol the beach during hatching season, and have helped to build a guarded hatchery to protect eggs until they hatch. Then, the kids gather to help escort the tiny baby turtles across the sands to the ocean waters.

Cathleen Burnham visited the island with her husband and kids as volunteers to help the local conservation program. With the local village kids, she put together this story of the activities of the Tortuga Squad, an inspiring example of real-life children around the globe who are active in grassroots projects to save Earth’s endangered wild animals.


Cathleen Burnham is an experienced travel and wildlife photojournalist. She has done assignments across the globe from Africa to Southeast Asia, from South and Central America to Europe. She is author of the WAKA series of books (World Association of Kids and Animals), profiling real kids around the world who are actively engaged in local wildlife conservation on a grassroots, community-based level.

Ms. Burnham hopes these stories about extraordinary kids doing creative, practical things to save wild animals will inspire others to get involved in protecting animals and natural habitats close to home and around the world.


“Readers will learn about threats to sea turtles as well as how people are helping them. An unusual glimpse of children as environmental activists within their own community.” – ALA Booklist

“Bright photos depict the children in action, the turtles and other animals, and the surroundings. The spreads also include attractively arranged maps and drawings and deftly inserted facts about turtles…. Burnham has written other books about compassionate efforts by children, such as Doyli to the Rescue: Saving Baby Monkeys in the Amazon (Crickhollow, 2015), that inspire readers to take positive action.… A wonderful addition to most collections.” – School Library Journal