Volunteering Costa Rica Turtle Conservation - Maria
Turtle conservation: Maria travelled with us to Latin America to help protect and conserve endangered sea turtles in Costa Rica. In the following, she reports on her experiences as a volunteer.
Project: Turtle conservation in Costa Rica
Location: Pacuare in Costa Rica
Duration: 2 weeks
Support from the Natucate team:
Volunteering in Costa Rica – Feedback: six questions for Maria
1) Could you give us a brief overview of your tasks in the project?
During my stay at the project, it was nesting and hatching season, so there was a lot of night patrolling, with the hope of finding turtles that had come ashore to nest, and to try to get ahead of the poachers.
Every night, two to four patrols went out at different times. Of course, always with one person from the team of scientists. If a turtle was found, the task was to wait quietly until it had dug its nest. When it starts to lay the eggs, a bag has to be held underneath to collect the eggs directly. Afterwards, the find is documented: The species of turtle is determined, its shell is measured, injuries or other distinctive identifying features are written down and finally the turtle is tagged if it is not already. Finally, we waited until it had safely returned to the sea and brought the eggs to the hatchery, which is guarded around the clock, as quickly as possible.
There, a nest is dug and the eggs carefully (and counted) placed inside. During the shifts at the hatchery, the nests have to be checked regularly for hatched turtles. The hatched babies are counted, measured, weighed and then released. The nest is dug up and examined over three days. In the process, baby turtles that were still alive were often found and released, and otherwise it was documented how many eggs had not hatched and at what stage they had stopped developing.
2) What was the biggest challenge for you during the project?
The night shifts became more and more strenuous as time went on, even though they were not really that long at 3 to 5 hours. In the first week, I had 6 night shifts and day shifts in between. If you are not used to such shifts, your body quickly notices the tiredness. But since it was great fun, it wasn't so bad.
3) Was there something you liked most? Or something you remember particularly negatively?
The houses in which you stay are equipped with different numbers of beds and the distribution of the rooms is done remotely and by a person who has not been there for several years. The distribution is not transparent and unfortunately also very unflexible. For example, I was the eighth person in a ten-bed room, while one house was completely empty.
I was also one of the few 'older' volunteers and I thought it was a pity that we were not accommodated together, because due to the age you have many of the same topics and more points of contact than with the volunteers who have just finished school. We then had to ask the person organising the camp if it was possible to change rooms and this was allowed after two days for three nights and then I would have had to move back to my old house. This arrangement was incomprehensible to everyone in the camp.
4) Did you have certain expectations before travelling to the project?
I had hoped that the work would be so much fun that it wouldn't feel like work at all, and that's exactly what happened :)
5) Have you done anything in your free time that you can recommend to future participants?
In our free time, we sunbathed a lot, just lay on the beach, read and played little games now and then. We also went out with rubbish bags and cleaned up the beach. Unfortunately, this is really necessary because a lot of rubbish ends up washed up on the beach.
In the second week, we (another volunteer and I) set an alarm clock every morning to watch the sunrise on the beach with a coffee in our hands :)
6) What recommendations would you give to other participants?
You should have a good headlamp. I borrowed mine from a friend, and it turned out to have very little luminosity. You could also think about a small solar cell, because the big one in the camp is often empty (especially after the sun has not been there for a while). I would also have liked to have some snacks with me. There is a small (illegally operated) kiosk run by a local resident a few hundred metres away, but only one person from the science team is allowed to go there and of course it costs a bit more. But if you want to use it, you should of course have cash with you.
You should wash your clothes when the sun is shining, otherwise it can take several days to dry them because of the high humidity. By then it will already be smelly again.
Two days a week, David offers boat trips across the Pacuare River, showing the animals living in the jungle. This costs around 14,000 Colon, if I remember correctly :)
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