Releasing baby turtles
Situated on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, I was fortunate enough to be there during the turtle season. Females visited the surrounding beaches fairly regularly throughout the June to November laying season. The community of Punta Banco started the season with one small hatchery and by the end of it had three, well managed hatcheries. During that time they saved 326 nests, which resulted in over 23,000 baby turtles being released.
All of the nests in the region have to be relocated. The reason for this is because of the high tides, when conditions are at an optimum, the high tide, flows over the top of the beaches and onto the coastal road, as demonstrated by the above picture. Land is being reclaimed by the sea. The first thing to be relocated was the creation of a new football pitch in preparation for the lose of the one in the middle of the village!
Alternative Patrol Method
Tropical storms are very common in this region so night patrols can actually be dangerous sometimes because of the frequency of lightning. The dedication shown by those involved in the conservation effort is wonderful to see. Proving that conservation doesn't have to be done through large campaigns and agencies, it can be managed within a community for the benefit of the surrounding region.
Nightly patrols would go searching for females laying along the coastline. The turtles are surprisingly difficult to spot in the waves and then move quickly up the beach, so the turtles are usually found mid-laying or on their way back to the sea. Thankfully there are always telltale signs if a turtle has visited. The eggs are dug up once the female has finished, with a note made of the depth they were buried. These eggs are then transferred to a hatchery and buried at the same depth.
Red lights are used to monitor turtles
Red light is a part of the colour spectrum which least disturbs turtles. Meaning that they can be monitored without impacting on the laying process.
As there is no obvious change between the beach and the village, the turtles often end up trying to move beyond the beach as the soil is still very sandy. Here one turtle had to be redirected back from the football pitch to the sidelines.
2 months later
Olive Ridley turtles take 2 months to gestate before they burrow out of their nests. Because the volunteers know when the eggs were laid they have a pretty good idea on when the babies will surface, and as the babies start to move beneath the surface, the top sand morphs and gives away that new life is about to reach the surface.
The babies are counted and then if it is a suitable time of day, they are taken to the top of one of the beaches and released. Once they have found their bearings, they march down towards the sea.
If you would like to learn more about this conservation project then please visit their Facebook page here -https://www.facebook.com/turtlerancho/
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