Baby leatherback turtle
Turtle nesting season has started and we are working hard to gather essential data.
GVI conducts research on marine turtles that nest in the southern end of Tortuguero National Park (TNP). The research takes places in two stages, night patrols and daily nest checks on a 3.5 mile stretch of beach starting at the Jalova river mouth.
TNP is a nesting area for leatherback turtles, an IUCN endangered species, from approximately March – June each year. Occasionally hawksbill and loggerhead turtles are also encountered laying eggs here. GVI volunteers have had the opportunity to observe and study many of these beautiful, giant animals during the current leatherback season.
Different from other marine turtle species, leatherback turtles do not have a hard carapace- commonly known as the “shell”. Istead, they have a mosaic of small bones covered by thick skin. Their size varies from 130cm to 183cm, however the largest ever recorded was over 3meters long! Their weight can range from 300kg to 500kg. The incubation period of a leatherback turtle is around 65 days, and you can find approximately 80 eggs per nest.
As leatherbacks are the largest of the sea turtles, and one of the most endangered, patrolling their nesting beaches tagging, measure & monitor (which is called “working” a turtle) is an important research activity to be able to record presence and the history of leatherbacks. All data collected by GVI and our volunteers goes to our partner organization, Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC), to be compiled with their data and produce reports for the national park, the Costa Rica Ministry of Environment, the scientific community and the general public, on the state of turtles and nesting in TNP. It also contributes to the worldwide body of knowledge on marine turtles and nesting.
Night patrols at Jalova are conducted from 8pm to 1am. Our objective is to collect data on sea turtles coming ashore to lay eggs. As part of the protocol designed by our partners at the STC, turtles are tagged for individual identification, and biometric data, for example, carapace length is measured and recorded. Our volunteer research assistants work alongside GVI staff to collect this information throughout the night.
We have also done a marathon night patrol covering Jalova to Tortuguero Town, a 15 mile stretch taking 7 hours on foot. After every one of these night patrols, a nest check patrol went out the following morning to oversee the state of all the nest that have been marked during the season, and that are being monitor to determinate the stage and conditions of the nests. All this data gives us information on the survival rates of the nests and the hatchlings, and also gives us a better understanding overall of our beach and our turtles.
For the first period of 2015 leatherback season, from April to mid May, GVI has worked 37 leatherback turtles and marked 19 leatherbacks nests, as well as 1 hawksbill nest. That means that so far this year, GVI has worked and marked more leatherback sea turtles than last year’s total count for the season.
We thank you for your continued support, without your generous donations research such as this would not be possible.
GVI Costa Rica