Our group of excited expedition members arrived at the Pacuare field station on Monday after travelling by bus and boat from San José. We all got straight into the scientific training and Fabian taught us how to collect turtle eggs, measure an adult leatherback turtle and the skills necessary to get the eggs to the hatchery where they will be placed in a new human-made nest and kept safe from lurking poachers and predators.
Armed with our new skill set we went on patrol the first evening, walking the beach looking for nesting turtles. The late night team, patrolling from 23:00 to 04:00, struck gold and encountered two turtles. One false crawl, where the turtle came out of the sea to have look, but changed its mind and went back to sea without laying any eggs. The second turtle they encountered had just finished laying her eggs. Fabian, Eilidh and Valeria measured the new mama turtle – her shell was 143 cm long, and she laid 73 eggs that they had to dig out and then carry to the hatchery. “The eggs were so heavy” said Eilidh from Scotland. It is no small feat to carry that many eggs through soft sand in the dead of night for several kilometers. Brilliant work!
Today (Tuesday) Fabian trained us in leatherback turtle nest building, so that we can also be put on hatchery duty and help get the eggs into their new homes. It is hard work to dig a 75 cm deep nest in the sand, and after our training we were all covered in sand, top to toe. A splash in the sea, however, quickly took care of that problem. Everyone is excited to get back out on patrol tonight, hoping for more turtles!