Marine Conservation, Science and Research

Osa Conservation Supports Research in Golfo Dulce: So Many Sea Turtles!

Side by side, you can begin to see the characteristics that visibly differentiate the three sea turtle species we documented inside Golfo Dulce.

When we began our research, nobody expected us to find very many sea turtles inside Golfo Dulce — most sea turtle activity was thought to occur on the Pacific side of the Osa Peninsula. It turned out that chelonids were the most frequently seen family of animals, accounting for 38 percent of our total sightings. Discovering such significant numbers of sea turtles was one of our most important findings. Sadly, fishermen with many years of experience in Golfo Dulce say the sea turtles there have declined at least 30 percent in recent years.

Jorge and I documented three species: Pacific Black sea turtles, still commonly referred to as “Greens” (Chelonia mydas agassizii), Olive Ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) and Hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata). Locals also reported seeing near-extinct Pacific Leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) inside Golfo Dulce. That’s four endangered species of sea turtles utilizing the embayment. Amazing!

Our biseasonal data show Golfo Dulce to be a year-round feeding and breeding area for endangered Green sea turtles. We logged over a hundred sightings of them between both surveys. This species, by far the most common, was usually observed in the upper regions of the gulf resting at the sea surface. But we also documented Green sea turtles mating in all four quadrants of the inlet, so their use of the fiord waters appears widespread.

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Sea Turtles

Third Sea Turtle Festival

September 18th represented the 3rd Annual Sea Turtle festival on Carate Beach.  About 100 members of Carate, Puerto Jiménez, and surrounding communities participated in sea turtle discussions, presentations fun activities with the theme of conservation.

The festival began with an interactive discussion with children and adults about the principal biological characteristics of the Osa, the turtle species that nest here, and the objectives and activities of the Sea Turtle Conservation Program developed by Osa Conservation on the beaches of Piro, Pejeperro and Carate.

Club Ambiental Las Abejitas of the Saturnino Cedeño School, under Laura Castro’s direction, prepared a theatrical skit for the event about the life of a sea turtle and the natural hazards and human threats that they face as well as the precautions that we must take on the sea turtle nesting beaches.

Activities included games on the beach, like turtle races and turtle sand castles, and a quiz competition about Osa’s biodiversity.  All participants in the event received informative material about sea turtle conservation, stickers, posters, and t-shirts for those who correctly answered the most questions.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this year’s event a success in raising awareness of the importance of conserving these incredible species.

Special thanks to:

SEEturtles, Luna Lodge, La Leona Lodge, ASCONA, Finca Exótica, Dereck Ferguson, Hacienda Río Oro, the Bellanero family, ACOSA, Tranquility, Frontier, Lapa Rios, Hoja de Osa School, Club Ambiental Las Abejitas, Laura Castro, and Mauricio Gutiérrez.

Sea Turtles, Volunteers and Visitors

We're Excited to Announce Registration for Our 2011 Sea Turtle Conservation Program!

Sea Turtles have been around for over 100 million years, but all over the world their survival is being threatened. Volunteers are crucial to protect the sea turtles during their nesting season.

Our program conserves and protects 10 miles of sea turtle nesting beach on the Osa Peninsula—a largely untouched, and amazingly beautiful tropical rainforest located in southwestern Costa Rica. This rewarding program allows you to monitor sea turtle movements, protect hatchlings and learn about sea turtle conservation—all on some of the most incredible beaches in the world, from Matapalo to Carate. Our sea turtle program relies on volunteer support to increase our presence on these beaches and help reduce poaching pressure. Spaces are available from July through December – please visit our sea turtle volunteer page to sign up, or send this info to people you think may be interested. Volunteering is a great way to experience this unique place while giving back through valuable conservation efforts. Read More »

Science and Research, Sea Turtles

Let´s have a bad joke!

By Phoebe Edge, Research Field Assistant (RFA) , Sea Turtle Conservation Program.

What turtle has the best eye sight?

A SEE TURTLE!

And that´s why it´s so important that we make sure on night patrols that we spot the ladies before they spot us…the last thing we want to do is scare them back to the sea. A good turtle detective just doesn´t do that. An Olive Ridley could have swum thousands of miles to get to this specific beach  which is why here at Friends of the Osa we do what we can to ensure we have minimal impact on beach patrols- especially at night. Females can be deterred from nesting and the hatchlings’ important journey to the sea can be disrupted just by the presence of white lights. For this reason, we only use red light on the beach. Sea turtles, like many other reptiles, don´t actually have the color red within their visual spectrum so it means we can work safe in the knowledge that they don´t feel like a criminal fleeing from the scene of a crime!

Volunteering with sea turtles on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

We´ve just said goodbye to the lovely Brandy and Nick who were volunteering  with us for 2 weeks, staying at Finca Exotica in Carate. Their second day it was unnecessary to use ANY  artificial light to spot a turtle as on an afternoon stroll to the lagoon at around 3:30pm, we  discovered a solitary uptrack and on the top…an Olive Ridley covering a nest! It was a beautiful day anyway so this just completely topped it off. Most sea turtles come up during the night to lay their eggs as they feel it´s safer but this individual obviously had other ideas! It was a real treat to see her in natural light.

Of course, night patrols aren´t always a walk in the park.  We are in the peak of the rainy season, and it’s not uncommon for there to be times when the rain has penetrated every ounce of clothing, sand has made its way into every crevice you never thought possible and throughout the patrol, one can´t help but feel like you’re on the losing side in World War III against the elusive sand flea. But the second you catch a glimpse of a turtle, watching each egg drop into the nest she created ever so carefully, we are reminded of how much energy has been invested in this process and just how vital our efforts are to protect nesting sea turtles. Our efforts here on the Osa seem so small- but nest by nest, day by day, the data we gather can be interpreted and contributed to the global effort for sea turtle conservation, and together we can make a difference.  Besides, who wouldn´t care to swap the office for this?

Birds

Birder's Challenge

Riverside Wren nest by Cheryl Chip & Jim Tamarack

For those of you who may remember, I posted a feature on the Riverside Wren (Thryothorus semibadius) back in April.  It was one of my first postings for the then new Friends of the Osa’s blog The Osa Chronicles and a few of you commented on both the nature history and photography by Gianfranco Gomez.

One of the species ecological behaviors I wrote about was of reproduction and nesting.  When I spoke about the nest of the Riverside Wren this is what I said:  “Nests are bulky globe structures with a roof and a vestibule (so to speak) not only used for raising young but also for sleeping at night any time of the year by either one individual or as many as possibly 3.  This species can be found nesting from December to August, nine months out of the year!”

Not long after this posting some friends and residents of the Osa Peninsula Jim Tamarack & Cheryl Chip saw the posting and sent me this photo they took of a Riverside Wren roosting in its nest at night near their home.  This photograph was taken in the month of December, but it also could have been taken any time of the year.

Riverside Wren at Drake Bay

Now, the position of this bird has had many of us puzzled for some time so I am inviting commentary from you all.  It looks like the bird is camouflaging itself in the nest, but how?  The Riverside Wren has barred black-and-white stripes only on the breast and belly while the back is solid rufous.   It’s as if it were laying on its back.  Are there two birds here?  Is this the Riverside Wren?

OK birders, its time to chime in.  I am waiting for your opinions and comments.