Volunteering: Sea turtle conservation in Costa Rica
In the following blog we give you an overview of the latest news in our species conservation project in Costa Rica and deliver recent information regarding the current nesting season.
Our volunteer project in Costa Rica focuses on the protection and conservation of endangered sea turtles. Loss of habitat, pollution, fishing and illegal egg gathering pose serious threats to the animals. By implementing specific protection measures projects like the one of our partner actively contribute to successful breeding and therefore to the conservation of sea turtles. In the following blog we give you an overview of the latest news in our species conservation project in Costa Rica and deliver recent information regarding the current nesting season.
Rescuing one at a time
At the beginning of 2018, our project partner on site had to react to more rescue cases than ever before. There were six cases of rescue recorded which were mainly caused by recreational fishing activities. Two Hawksbill sea turtles showed signs of anaemia while two others had a hook embedded in their skin. The most fatal cases involved fishing lines,
First seen in December 2017, Maple was a fully developed and healthy adult Pacific Green turtle. A few months later, she had lost 30 kilos which equals almost half of her body mass. The reason for her weight loss: a fishing line she had accidentally swallowed. A meter of fishing line was pulled out of her mouth and after a few days she expelled another 15 meters of that line. Maple had been unable to feed herself and excrete any metabolic wastes for weeks as the fishing line built a very bad blockage in her stomach. Sadly, Maple died in April of this year, even after a full month of tube feeding and all the efforts of the staff from Parque Marino del Pacifico.
The same day as another juvenile turtle was found, our project partner found Lefty, a small Hawksbill turtle. Lefty was entangled in a fishing line which was wrapped around its right shoulder. After assessing the injury vets decided to operate because they didn’t see any other choice for Lefty to fully recover. After spending almost three months in recovery in Puntarenas, Lefty was released in May into its home Playa Blanca.
It might be extremely satisfying to release turtles like these back into the wild after months of recovery but a great amount of these cases could have been avoided if some people had been more careful and responsible in the way they disposed their fishing gear. It may only take a few seconds to throw a fishing line into the ocean but it can end the life of an innocent animal which ad been living for more than four decades. Did you know? It takes 600 years until a fishing line is degraded – how many animals will be fatally injured during 600 years?
Pacuare so far – 2018 nesting season
With the first nests being recorded on March 2nd, leatherback sea turtle season officially started. In comparison to 2017, the first seasonal nest was collected by staff members of our project partner and relocated to a safe place at the beach.
Our partner was able to relocate 17 nests to the beach due to the low number of poachers. No nest needed to be incubated in styrofoam boxes this season. Unfortunately, one nest was destroyed by domestic dogs.
On March 21st, our partner was able to complete the hatchery almost two months earlier than the previous season. This means that more nests were buried in sterilized sands and guarded by the volunteers.
So far the percentage of collected nests by the project is approx. 65%. As the number of poachers was quite low at the beginning of the season, our partner was able to get more clutches than the poachers. Tragically, there are more poachers who have started to come to the beach lately which ends in reducing the number of nests collected during patrols. Despite a high number of patrols at the beach, poachers still are able to gain the same amount of clutches or even more than our partner – a critical fact.
This illustrates that there is a great absence of authorities at the beach with our partner. No national authority (e.g. police or coastguard) is supporting the project, making our partner unable to save a higher number of nests. Until now, there are 108 leatherback sea turtle nests and two Hawksbill turtle nests at the hatchery – twice amount than the season before.
After the two Hawksbill turtles laid their eggs, they were protected until they were safely released back into the ocean. Luckily, no Pacific Green turtle or Hawksbill turtle has been killed. From the seven nests relocated to the beach and the five nests incubated at the hatchery, more than 400 hatchlings have been released this year.