Happy World Sea Turtle Day!

June 16, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Olive Ridley ArribadaThis is an Olive Ridley sea turtle leaving her nest on Playa Corozalito, Costa Rica Every year I go to Costa Rica as a volunteer with EarthRace Conservation Organization. I live on an isolated beach with no running water or indoor plumbing, and no heat or electricity, save for a single rooftop solar panel. I volunteer at a real biological research station that patrols the Nicoya Peninsula during sea turtle nesting season. All sea turtles are endangered. Because of heavy poaching and depredation, only 1 in 1000 sea turtles will survive long enough to return to the beach of their birth to lay their own nests. Even if they do, sea turtle nests are depredated almost as quickly as they are laid...if the poachers don't get there first.

My work consists of patrolling the beaches at night looking for nesting turtles. With the help of field biologists, while the turtles are nesting, we gather scientific information about the turtle, count the eggs, put them in a backpack, and then take them back to a base camp where we have a nursery set up. We place the eggs in man-made nests within a fenced and guarded area and wait for them to hatch. Once the eggs have hatched, we count the baby turtles and escort them to the sea side and release them. By doing this, we save thousands of eggs from being eaten. For every 1000 hatchlings we save, the species has a chance for survival.

This photograph was taken during a special event that I was asked to participate in. The nearby beach of Corozalito was experiencing an arribada, which is a group nesting phenomenon. This "arrival" occurs in only three places in the world, and I was very fortunate to not only witness the event, but to participate in the scientific research that went on there. Thousands of turtles came up on this one-mile stretch of beach to lay their nests all at once. It was impossible to collect the eggs, and many of them were eaten by the local wildlife; however, predators are a natural part of every ecosystem. Olive Ridley sea turtles are the only marine turtle species to exhibit this type of behavior, and scientists believe that it is done unconsciously as a means of species survival. Nearly 5000 turtles nested on the beach this night.

The photograph is one I took with my cell phone early in the morning the day after my patrol. It is an Olive Ridley making its way back to the ocean after laying a nest on the beach.


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