Update from our conservation holiday protecting leatherback and other sea turtles on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica www.biosphere-expeditions.org/costarica
The last few days of the expedition were busy!
On Friday and Saturday nights there is usually an increase in the number of poachers on the beach, as people from nearby towns come to the beach to try their luck over the weekend. In response we sent out a lot of patrols trying to get to the turtles before the poachers.
On Friday night, for example, we had a leatherback nesting right in front of the station and we reached her only a mere matter of minutes before a team of poachers walked by. Expeditioner Scarlet from Bulgaria says that “it is amazing to me that nature can create such a beautiful creature and that I got to see this ancient nesting ritual”.
We carried 83 viable eggs back for reburial at the hatchery. This was nest number 100 in the hatchery for the season.
Later that same night we encountered the first hawksbill turtle of the season. If poachers encounter a hawksbill turtle, they will not only steal the eggs, but also kill the turtle for its shell. So it was imperative to transport the eggs to the safe hatchery and see the turtle back to sea, which we did.
Our impressive total now stands at seven leatherback nests (608 eggs) and one hawksbill nest (150 eggs) saved, 56 hours of beach patrolling and 39 hours of guarding the hatchery. By contrast, the poachers got four leatherback and one hawksbill nests poached, making the average approximately 65% in our favour.
In addition to patrolling, we have also been busy making hatchery baskets to place over the hatchery nests, cleaning the beach of plastic rubbish, and maintaining the hatchery, making sure it is predator-proof.
Our partner organisation LAST has also set up a weekly market day for community members to sell goods to our citizen scientists and the very few tourists that find their way to this remote beauty spot. Goods include fresh fruit, homemade coconut cake and turtle-themed jewellery.
Expeditioner Talar from the USA thinks “it’s great to able to support the community in this way too and providing an alternative income to poaching” and with this puts LAST’s thinking into a nutshell.
But I’ll let people and actions speak for themselves soon. Pictures are attached – and give us a few days to cut and produce some videos from the field too….