April, May and June are times of change throughout the world, when the cold winter rains bid us farewell and the reassuring hopefulness of the summer seems just around the corner. However, nowhere is this sensation of alteration better expressed than in the ever-dynamic neotropical rainforest. These changes in Jalova mean one main exciting thing to everyone here; babies! This is the time when all the mothers and fathers of the natural world are hard at work building nests out of twigs and twine or braving the beach under the gaze of the milky way.
The yearly rains in Jalova bring change, and this is positive change for the life of Tortuguero National Park (TNP) as it means an abundance of resources. Almost as if they have evolved for millions of years to know this, the animals recognize the richness and start building nests and finding mates; meaning that the babies are on the way.
Of all the babies we’ve had on base, the Rufous-tailed hummingbirds were a highlight. The mother diligently attended the eggs and fledglings for four weeks, which is commendable, less so was her placement of the nest. It was built on a branch at head height, in the middle of a busy path through base. We had to block it off for a month and circumvent the nest through the adjacent bushes and tall grass. However, everyone’s wet socks were justified when the babies fledged, seeing the little beaks and faces for the first time was a magical experience. It wasn’t just the hummingbirds who utilized our beautiful base as their suburban heaven for their children. A Kiskadee Flycatcher pair, flamboyant birds with a taste for cacophony raised hatchlings and the lime-green iguana young found perches all over base to soak up the preciously rare sunlight.
Most excitingly of all however, this time of year brings Tortuguero’s namesake to our beautiful beach, sea turtles! Nothing will compare with the Jurassic feeling that overcomes one when they first witness these archaic reptiles drag their ungainly bodies out of the depths and onto the sand. The starlight reflects off the surface of the Caribbean, revealing the soaking silhouette of a gentle giant. Waves break over them, like a mountain torrent over boulders. They stare up at their task, miles of empty moonlit beach, the second-hand sunlight conjuring up shapes to scare all but the hardiest. Yet they press on, knowing that their task is one of the most important in survival. Like a man on the moon, these creatures haul themselves further into this alien world in order to create the next generation.
This time of year, the beach is transformed by the lumbering Leatherbacks turtles. They create a colossal mess while nesting, flinging sand like feral diggers. The presence of these creatures means plenty more beach time for the volunteers, who go out every night between 21:00 and 02:00 to search for nesting turtles; a once-in-a-lifetime experience. When a nesting mother is encountered certain data is gathered. This includes carapace length and width, whether she has any injuries and if the group is lucky enough to encounter her before she has laid her eggs, they are counted while she lays them. Although most nests will not hatch for the next two months, to share these intimate and expressive moments with the mother is unrivalled.
To preserve this biological fairy-tale, funds must be raised and in order to do this we organized a 24-hour survey. This was a mammoth undertaking, as most surveys are no longer than two hours, so this one had to be completed in stages with different rotating groups of volunteers. The aim of this mission was to have at least one survey out in the national park for 24 hours. During this was two turtle night walks and a Jag Walk, which in total is nearly 40 miles on our beach. Supplemented to this extraordinary amount of distance on sand were a bird boat and an enormous forest survey, assessing over four miles of dense and coastal forest. Every single person delightedly participated, showing both commitment and exaggerating the sense of family that is generated here in Jalova. All the effort, sweat and blisters were worth-while, as thanks to everyone who selflessly donated, we managed to raise over £700!
The GVI Jalova Base is situated in one of the most relevant and vital locales in the world when it comes to the preservation of its biodiversity. The research that the field team and volunteers come together to accomplish is incomparably important to the fate of sea turtles and indeed global fauna as a whole. It all contributes to the UN’s sustainable development goals; Life on Land and Life at Sea, sea turtles being synonymous with the link between the two. What is achieved here at Jalova is nothing short of providing insight into the future of our planet and making a difference in its conservation. However, none of this would be possible without the help of people on the outside.
The continuing support of fellow conscientious humans give us hope that the future is not as bleak as the news makes it seem and it should never be understated how important every single donation is.
Costa Rica Conservation