Protecting Sea Turtles and Preserving the Ecosystems they Depend On
Themes: Animal & Wildlife Conservation
Related GLA Programs: Costa Rica: Beachside Service Adventure
Grant Recipient: Asociación Vida Verdiazul (AVIVE)
From 2005 to 2010, the World Wildlife Fund developed el Proyecto de Conservación de Baulas del Pacífico (CBP) the Project for Conservation of the Pacific Leatherback Turtles at Junquillal Beach in Costa Rica to save the critically endangered Pacific leatherback who use Junquillal Beach as its nesting ground. In October of 2010 AVIVE was formed as a community-based organization to continue the work of the CBP and ensure optimal conditions for turtle nesting through active conservation with community support. The organization now protects all local species of sea turtles and works to conserve the local ecosystem and the welfare of the Junquillal community.
1. Out of the 8 species of sea turtles in the world, 6 migrate to Costa Rica for egg laying. Junquillal beach was discovered by biologist Gabriel Francia, to be among the most important nesting sites of Pacific leatherbacks in the Costa Rica.
2. Temperature of the nest determines the gender of sea turtle hatchlings. Typically eggs at the bottom, or cooler part, of the nest hatch males while eggs toward the top, or warmer part, of the nest hatch females. With climate change and increased sand temperatures, more female sea turtles are being born than males, creating a threat to genetic diversity. To combat this AVIVE maintains a hatchery where they transplant eggs from nests on the beach to the sand of the protected hatchery. The moisture and temperature of the hatchery is controlled and it also provides protection from stray dogs and other predators.
3. In addition to working directly with turtles, AVIVE also implements educational programs for children in the surrounding communities. In fact, local primary and secondary students who were a part of this program, presented their research on sea turtle conservation and were finalists in la Feria Científica de Costa Rica (the National Science Fair of Costa Rica)!
Sea turtles face threats from a variety of sources in Costa Rica. Climate change threatens nesting areas, predators threaten eggs and young hatchlings, but humans are also a threat. Besides being packed with nutrition, Costa Rican folklore says that sea turtle eggs are an aphrodisiac, so it has been the cultural norm for people to steal eggs to eat or sell. On average, sea turtles lay 110 eggs in a nest, and average between 2 to 8 nests a season. At $2-20 per egg, this can earn poachers a significant amount of money.