Costa Rica: Turtle conservation in coronavirus times

This year everything is different. The country is effectively closed and so are all its beaches. This means there are no international volunteers or citizen scientists with us this year.

The main threat for our sea turtle nesting beaches is through illegal poaching. But COVID-19 has stopped us dead in our tracks and we currently have just our key local staff of one biologist and two research assistants struggling to patrol 7 km of beach to save as many nests as possible. But our funding, which comes from expedition contributions, is now lacking too, so we are struggling to pay our local staff. We are grateful to a couple of our local guides who have offered to work for free for the peak nesting season. Another piece of good news amongst all the mayhem is that our lobbying and education work with the government is finally paying of. So this year, just in time, we also have more support from the coastguards, who are also more available because all beaches are closed to the public.

So all in all, we are surviving here. So far we have managed to save round half of all nests overall. This is a far cry from the around 70% we can achieve with volunteers and underlines how critically important they are in what we do, but it is nevertheless impressive, given the very difficult circumstances.

Here are the latest figures from Pacuare:

  • 125 leatherback nests this year – 67 protected in hatchery (54%)
  • 53 females identified
  • 740 hatchlings released from 15 nests so far
  • Emergence success rate 73%
  • 5 green turtle nesting activities with 2 nests protected in hatchery (40%)
  • 1 green turtle killed by poachers
  • Overall percentage of leatherback and green turtle nests saved so far 47%
  • By comparison, 67% of leatherback and green nests were saved in 2019 with the help of citizen scientists

Thank you to everyone who has supported the Biosphere Expeditions fundraiser so far. This is a crucial component to our success in spite of the pandemic this year. Please keep giving, if you can. The peak nesting season is still to come and every cent or penny will count!

Nicki Wheeler
Volunteer Coordinator
Latin American Sea Turtles