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The Battle: Sea Turtles vs. Predators!

Blogpost by Manuel Sanchez, Sea Turtle Conservation Program Coordinator

 

Nature is not always kind; sea turtles face a multitude of life threatening obstacles that reduce their chance of survival throughout their lives. Predation of eggs, hatchlings and adults by numerous predators is just one of the risks. Raccoons, coatis, opossums, crabs, dogs, birds and ants attack nests to indulge in an egg or a young sea turtle. Once the hatchling emerges from the nest, the challenge continues as hawks, pelicans, frigate birds, crabs and fish await a bite-size meal.  Once the hatchling defeats the odds of predation in their younger years, they reach adulthood where they are relatively safe from  such threats, excluding the occasional shark attack.

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Photo by Manuel Sanchez of a sea turtle hatchling making its way into the ocean

In the Osa, the coati populations have increased largely because of a change in the ecosystem balance with a decline of apex predator populations due to habitat loss and hunting. As the number of coatis increases, more of them are taking to the beach in search of food and often finding sea turtle eggs for their dinner. This unbalanced ecosystem is having a cascading impact on the survival of these sea turtle nests and increasing the need for us to help protect these vulnerable nesting areas.

Photo by Janell Canon on predation by coati and birds

Photo by Janell Canon of predation by a coati and birds

Unfortunately, natural predation is only one of the factors contributing to sea turtle population decline. Human actions can also have more of a direct threat to sea turtle survival.  In many coastal communities, especially in Central America, sea turtle eggs and meat can be a source of food and income, although often illegal. During peak nesting seasons, turtle poachers have been known to raid the beaches at night looking to steal eggs from nests, which can unfortunately are often sold to those willing to pay. 

Here on Playa Piro and Peje Perro, sea turtle nests are threatened more by predation than poaching. Our Sea Turtle Conservation team works hard to reduce human-induced threats and to restore the natural ecosystem balance needed to save the sea turtles. This year, our sea turtle hatchery has already protected over 200 sea turtle nests and helped us to release over 7,000 hatchlings already this year! We are greatly appreciative of all our our conservation volunteers & visitors that help us protect these amazing and ancient creatures! Click here to learn more about volunteer opportunities with our Sea Turtle Conservation Program!

Sea Turtle Hatchery

Our Sea Turtle Hatchery in the Osa