Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Viva la Tortuga!

Long live the turtle!

‘Tis the season to be nesting. Every year from August to October, two of Costa Rica's three sea turtle species lay most of their eggs on the coastlines: the Green Turtles in Tortugero National Park (Caribbean coast) and Olive Ridley Turtle in Guanacaste (Pacific coast). There are seven species of sea turtles found in the world, all of which are endangered. Therefore many animal lovers fly to Costa Rica to do their part in assisting with turtle conservation projects set up by Costa Rica-based organizations.

Costa Rica Outward Bound is one of these organizations. And this week, students from two of our fall semester courses, Water & Wave and Tri-Country, are sacrificing their sleep to help out on the beaches of the Pacific Coast.

With a special partnership with one of Costa Rica’s turtle refuges (an area protected by the government) in Tulin, CRROBS students are able to participate in the conservation of these beloved animals. There are three crucial ways through which our students participate in the conservation process:

1. Beach cleaning: maintain and improve the beach; rescuing turtles if necessary
2. Night patrols: protect eggs from poachers and predators
3. Collecting eggs: place them in a secure hatchery area

The beaches must be maintained because, in the off-season, the sea turtles stay in the water. When it is time to lay their eggs (mainly between August and October), they exit the water and follow the moon to find a safe spot to lay them. Because they do not see very well, they are confused if the beach has too many obstacles and no place to go. Volunteers, including our students, clear the beaches maintain safe places where turtles consistently go to lay their eggs year after year.

In addition, poachers steal eggs, and predators eat them. Turtle eggs are a delicacy and can sell for a lot of money. As night time is both the time when eggs are laid and the time when poachers and predators make their moves, conservationists set out around midnight and again at 3am to safeguard eggs and relocate them to safer places. Costa Rica Outward Bound’s students make these patrols every night while camping on Playa Hermosa.

Through these efforts, CRROBS students and conservation organizations all over the country hope to repopulate the beaches with these adored creatures.

To read more from a previous CRROBS newsletter, click here.

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