The turtle project in Jalova monitors the hatching success rate of nests marked by the GVI staff and volunteers during the green turtle nesting season (June to November) on a three mile stretch of beach.
The typical life cycle of the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) starts with an egg laid and buried, amongst hundreds of other eggs, and hundreds of other nests,on the beach at Tortuguero on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. If lucky, that egg hatches and a turtle hatchling makes its way into the ocean. Many years later, that same hatchling, now grown in to an adult female, returns to the same beach and lays her own nest. In this case, that night was 12 August 2014 and that beach just happened to fall within the area survey by volunteers and staff of GVI’s Jalova Research Station. On that same night there was a group of poachers in the Tortuguero area. Poaching turtles nests for eggs is still a fairly common practice on Costa Rica´s Caribbean beaches, and one of the reasons having the beach as a protected area, where research programs combined with patrols by park rangers greatly discourage poaching, is so important to the protection of these nests. Poaching activity within the national park and protected areas is much lower than on unpatrolled/unprotected beaches. On this particular evening, the poachers dug up the nest of the female turtle (and a number of other nests) and removed the eggs for personal consumption and to sell locally. Turtle eggs have long been considered both an aphrodisiac and a delicacy in this region as well as other parts of Costa Rica, and black market sale of those eggs still occurs in many places.
The 12th of August was a busy night on the Tortuguero beach, as the TNP Rangers were conducting one of their regular night patrols. They came across the poachers and found over 900 fresh turtle eggs in hessian sacks. As it is currently illegal to disturb the turtle nests and remove eggs for consummation or resale, the rangers arrested the poachers and took possession of the turtle eggs.
The turtle eggs would not survive outside their nest; and in fact the longer the eggs remain outside the nest the less likely embryos will develop to hatchlings. In the first 24 hours of the eggs existence, the embryo attaches itself to the shell. Movements and changes in the temperature can cause the embryo to fail. Knowing that the confiscated eggs were in danger, the rangers therefore contacted GVI Jalova´s turtle project leader Renato Bruno (aka Chief) and asked if there was anything that could be done to save the potential turtles.
GVI Jalova has been working successfully with the TNP Rangers for over ten years. The rangers are very familiar Jalova´s turtle conservation project (in partnership with the Sea Turtle Conservancy) and work closely with GVI on many different conservation and education initiatives, even having GVI staff accompany them on patrols; particularly in turtle nesting season when jaguar predation of marine turtles (studied by GVI) is at its peak and the beach is adorned with hundreds of hatchling tracks. GVI staff were happy to answer the call and assist the rangers with the eggs.
The success rate of Green Turtle hatchlings making it to adulthood is about one in a thousand. This is why it is so important and encouraging that the partnership GVI Jalova has with the TNP Rangers resulted in the successful incubation and hatching of the turtles.
On reaching the ocean the hatchlings they made it will have many other obstacles to avoid if they are to make it adulthood; but we are hopeful that for some they do live happily ever after.
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