Our Nesting Sea Turtles: June-July 2019
History: A Sea Turtle Conservation and Community Development Project
We saw the desperate need for more conservation and education in the area to protect the nesting beaches of the Olive Ridley and Pacific Green Sea Turtles. COPROT Tortugas de Osa was first founded in August 2018 due to many ecological and community issues. We are an environmental conservation project that has the primary focuses of community development and the conduction of research on nesting sea turtles.
Our main headquarters is in Carate, a rural town on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica. Our camp is settled right before reaching Corcovado National park. Carate is known for its biodiversity, which has led to its popularity as a tourist destination. Development in Carate and surrounding areas in the past 25 years is mainly due to the increase in ecotourism with the construction of eco-lodges. These developments, although beneficial for the area, have had minimal impact on opportunities for the local people.
The nearby beaches of Carate, Rio Oro, and La Leona on the Osa Peninsula are some of the most important sea turtle nesting beaches in the South Pacific. Each beach is close to 2.5 kilometers with approximately 4,000 nests laid by the Olive Ridley (classified Vulnerable by the IUCN) and Pacific Green (classified as endangered by the IUCN) sea turtles. These beaches are essential for the protection of our marine life. Currently, we lose approximately 25% of nests per annum because of high levels of poaching and predation on turtle nests in the area.
With the continuation of ecologically damaging activities carried out by local people we realized that in order for there to be changes on our beaches we needed involve the community. We recognized that giving the gold-mining community and other local people the opportunity to work in conservation could solve a number of pertinent issues in Osa Peninsula. We began recruiting the locals in September 2018. Our local staff started out originally as volunteers and now are paid every two weeks as their skill progress. We pride ourselves, our volunteers, and most of all the community in our accomplishments so far. We have obtained permits for beach exploration and conservation at La Leona, Carate, and Rio Oro beaches, all located in the town known as Carate.
By providing jobs to gold miners and educating them on turtles they have found purpose in meaningful work and are now proud to be a part of this project. Our project is right in the heart of an area that has a historically long tradition of gold mining. Not only does mining emphasize the idea that illegal activity is okay, but it also takes a toll on the environment. In addition, many people consume the wildlife that surrounds them, including turtle eggs. Currently we have local staff who are trained in scientific data collection and are learning English so that they may soon lead tours. In Carate, we are actively working with the locals to create more jobs, educate about conservation, and provide a sense of community empowerment.
So far, we are building our second hatchery and our basecamp. We test Playa Carate hatchery with temperature data monitors; it is only used for nests that need to be relocated because of danger such as predation from feral dogs or flooding due to the location of the high water line. Rio Oro hatchery will be ready in the next couple of weeks. Our new camp will be two stories and can fit 14 staff and volunteers in total.
Currently, we have research assistants, a small range of volunteers, and locals taking shifts to patrol our three beaches. We also have the help of Frontier, an organization based out of London . Throughout the week we stay busy with:
- Turtle Patrols: Protection of Nests, Nest Excavations, Hatchling Releases, Data Input, and Tours
- Morning Patrols 3-5 Hours
- Night Patrols 4-7 Hours
- Beach Clean Ups
- Redoing Sector Posts: Painting, Digging, Placing Logs, Hammering, and Taking GPS Points
- Hatchery Building Days: Lifting Bamboo, Shoveling, and Building Infrastructure
- Bamboo Cage Making for Nest Protection
- English Lessons for Our Locals
- Presentations for Education at Schools, Hotels, and Martinez bar to Raise Awareness on our Project
- Gardening & Painting to Maintain our Camp
- Media and Social Site Updates
- Dog Adoptions
In order to promote sustainable development, we are in the process of creating a small-scale permaculture project on the new property, where we are able to grow/produce a considerable amount of our own food for people involved in the project. This will improve the productivity and sustainability of the land around us. One of our goals is to become a zero waste facility.
Our Biggest Problem Locally, Aside From Poaching
With a great nose and swift digging skills the local, and stray, dogs of Carate are known to dig up and eat unprotected nests. We have started to manage the free-roaming dog populations. We capture stray dogs, castrate them, train them, and facilitate adoptions. Furthermore, we provide education to local people about controlling their dogs off leash and ensuring their dogs are well fed, so we can help control the predation of our precious eggs.
Protection and Conservation of the Turtles:
- Increase hatching success rates by protecting nests and in extreme cases, relocating nests to hatcheries.
- Increasing hatchlings chances to reach adulthood.
- Reduce predation and poaching rates on our beaches by carrying out regular patrols.
- Helping turtles that have suffered injuries as a result of bycatch, pollution, and damages from boats, other animals, or natural causes.
- Regular beach clean ups where we reuse as much garbage that is washed up on the beach and recycle the rest.
- Raising awareness to communities all over the world by collecting important data and conducting research to influence policy makers.
Community Involvement in Conservation:
- Provide better jobs with a steady income for people in the community. Specifically gold miners and ex poachers.
- Educate locals on the importance of conservation within their community to promote safe practices of ecotourism and be more aware of plastic consumption and littering.
- Give English lessons so that community members may take on leading roles in our project for tours, education, and manage overseas volunteers.
- Offer other services or tours, outside of turtle conservation, so that other community organizations may have a substantial income as well from ecotourism.