This week it has become increasingly obvious that beach erosion is also a big problem in Pacuare. As a result of global warming more extreme weather events have been observed in the area in recent years, and due to current storms in the Caribbean we have seen very high tides and strong wave action eating away the beach from under our feet. This has also impacted the number of nesting turtles we have encountered. There have been fewer females coming out to nest at night, as there is little to no beach above the high tide line to nest on.
We did, however, encounter a turtle camouflaging her nest, that sadly had been poached, on Tuesday night. Fortunately we managed to recorded her tag numbers and get her measurements. She was an interesting turtle as her carapace was deformed and not very streamlined, and her back left flipper was missing, probably as a result of a shark attack. Only the previous day when we released a clutch of hatchlings, where a few had deformed carapaces, did we wonder if these juveniles would ever make it to adulthood. It turns out they do!
Wednesday, our last night on patrol saw more rain and therefore little turtle activity. Brad joked that, “it is like being on Survivor and preparing for a marathon each night!” But morale was still high. “Camaraderie doesn’t happen unless you’re doing something challenging”, said Janet from the UK. It certainly has been a challenging, but also a very rewarding time for the team, and turtles alike, but as the expedition draws to a close another nest emerges – 34 writhing hatchlings ready to begin their adventures at sea.
So with a joyous farewell dinner, with cake from Magali, candelabras by Theresa, and Scottish folk songs from Gordon, it is time to leave our rustic abode, and return to whence we came. We will not forget our experiences here in Pacuare and it has been an fruitful inaugural expedition for Biosphere Expeditions, with a total of 15 nests recovered and relocated in the hatchery. That’s over 1000 potential hatchlings! Thank you team for all your hard work in making this a reality. Many thanks also to our project partners LAST and especially to Magali for her knowledge, skills and dedication in the field – it was a pleasure working with you. A big thanks also to all the staff on site, to Silvia our cook, to the research assistants, to Pablo and especially the local guides, Mauricio, Carlos, Nene, Hernan and Steven who led us to the turtles each night. The poaching issue, although far from being resolved, is under the watchful eye of LAST and the Environmental Association of Nuevo Pacuare, and we look forward to continuing our relationship next year on another expedition.