I have arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica and enjoyed seeing lush parks and flocks of parrots while walking around the city getting everything ready for your arrival. I had a good meeting with Nicki Wheeler of our partner organisation Latin American Sea Turtles (LAST). She will be meeting you at the hotel on Monday morning and sending you on the minibus to meet scientist Fabian and I for the 40-minute boat ride to the Paquare beach research station. When you arrive there, lunch will be ready and we’ll get started learning everything we need to know about the first evening beach patrol. One part of the research station we will all be excited to visit is the hatchery, where over 60 turtle nests are incubating already, some ready to hatch during our expedition!
Nicki let me know that this year is an El Niño year, which means the ocean is warmer and it’s looking like a peak year for turtle nesting. LAST started work on Paquare in February, relocating turtle nests to the safe hatchery where the eggs take close to 60 days to develop. Our efforts will be well needed as there are many poachers on the beaches this year as well, and we hope to encounter the nesting females and relocate eggs before they are removed by people wanting to sell turtle eggs as food.
Rising global temperatures have made the sand on beaches warmer, which makes turtle eggs develop as mostly females. In order to keep the sand in the hatchery cooler, to ensure even numbers of male and female turtles, LAST has covered the hatchery with shading mesh to cool the sand.
March through July is the prime nesting season for leatherbacks on the east coast of Costa Rica, where we work. The height of the season is right now, so there is a good chance some of you will encounter nesting female turtles during night patrols. Other species such as green and hawksbill turtles also nest on Paquare beach during July to October. Rarer are the Olive Ridley turtles who nest in the region June thought November.
It’s amazing to think of so many species of turtles sharing the same beach, it’s quite lucky that they nest at different times of the year so they are not digging up each other’s nests! The baby turtles will continue to hatch throughout the year, but November through February, the beaches are quiet, and only the site manager of the research station, David, stays to release the last of the hatchlings. You will meet him on Monday as well and hopefully he and Fabian will have great stories to share about hatchlings and nesting females when we arrive.
To prepare for your journey to the research station, carry water, snacks, and a warm shirt in case the air conditioning is cool in the van. For the boat ride keep handy your sun hat, sunglasses and sunscreen as well as a rain jacket. If you brought binoculars or a camera, keep them handy but in a Ziploc in case of rain. This 45-minute boat ride though calm, costal-forest canals is beautiful and you might encounter wildlife such white-faced capuchin monkeys, sloths, caiman crocodiles or toucans.
Looking forward to exploring with you soon!