Sea Turtles

Every Day is Sea Turtle Day Here in the Osa

Blogpost written by Marina Garrido, Sea Turtle Volunteer

 

World Sea Turtle Day was just last week and the sea turtle team at Osa Conservation was super excited. Why? Because to us, it is not just a day, but a day in which we hope the whole world can remember and think about, even if just for a moment, these amazing animals.

Sea turtles are one of the most ancient animals alive. They belong to the family Quelonidae, which  also encompasses terrestrial turtles. One interesting fact about sea turtles, is that unlike the terrestrial turtles, they cannot hide their bodies inside their shells.

Photo by Marina Garrido, baby sea turtles journey back to the ocean

Photo by Marina Garrido, baby sea turtles journey back to the ocean

Currently, there are seven sea turtle species swimming in the seas and oceans. Costa Rica is home to four of these species including: the Olive ridley, the Pacific Green turtle, the Hawksbill and the Leatherback. All four of them can be found in the Osa Peninsula!

All sea turtle species are considered highly endangered. Here in Osa Conservation, we are conserving and protecting sea turtles to make a change. How do we do it? We patrol two beaches every day, looking for turtle tracks. If we find a nest, we move it to the hatchery in order to protect it. Thanks to the hatchery we can control the nests and study them to improve the success of the hatchlings. For example, one of the things we control is the temperature of the nests. Why? The sea turtles are reptiles and therefore the temperature surrounding the nest determines gender. Females are born on high temperatures and males on low temperatures. Unfortunately, the temperatures have increased in the past few years due to climate change, and so, more females are being born than males.

Photo by Marina Garrido, volunteers observe a nesting female at night

Photo by Marina Garrido, volunteers observe a nesting female at night

We have been very successful in protecting the turtles thanks to the help of everyone that comes to volunteer. Last year we set around 15,000 hatchlings free. Still we need a lot of help from all of you! Below you can find a little list of things you can do to help the sea turtles:

  • Do not throw any trash into the ocean.
  • Clean the beaches as you walk and close to where you spend time.
  • Reuse and Recycle.
  • Use reusable fabric bags instead of plastic bags.
Photo by Marina Garrido, Sea turtle volunteers release hatchlings back to the ocean

Photo by Marina Garrido, Sea turtle volunteers release hatchlings into the ocean

IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE SEA TURTLE DAY FOR YOU TO HELP THE TURTLES. YOU CAN MAKE CHANGE HAPPEN!

 

 

 

 

 

Environmental Education, Volunteers and Visitors

An Unforgettable Educational Adventure: Enamored with the Osa

By: Vickie Buisset

Volunteering with the FOO Sea Turtle Research Program was a wonderful experience.  My observations and field notes taken while on the Osa Peninsula were used to complete the final independent study project of my Master of Environmental Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU).  The topic of my independent study project was Global Threats of Sea Turtles.  I graduated from VCU in December of 2010 and feel very lucky to have had this volunteer/research opportunity on the beautiful Osa Peninsula.  The personnel at the FOO Sea Turtle Research Center were very helpful in my data collection and field studies, even after I returned home to finish my independent study.  I couldn’t have asked for a more hospitable and professional research program.

Jesus Christ Lizard

Getting from San Jose to the research center was quite an adventure.  Visiting the Osa during the height of the rainy season made it a bit tricky, but it was well worth the effort.  I spent nine thrilling days and nights at the Osa Biodiversity Center from the end of October through early November of 2010.  I participated in four night beach patrols and two day beach patrols with the sea turtle research program.  Watching the sea turtles nest at night was a magical experience that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

With several FOO conservation projects underway, I had the opportunity to learn a lot about the local biodiversity of the peninsula.   I stayed busy, practiced Spanish a bit, received plenty of rest, and filled my belly with wonderful home-cooked meals served onsite at the research center.  The people of FOO were a lot of fun and I enjoyed working with them.   I’d do it all over again! Thanks for everything FOO. I’ll be forever grateful.

Sincerely,

Vickie Buisset Jones

Science and Research, Sea Turtles

Double Your Donation to Osa Sea Turtle Conservation

Today SEE Turtles launched its effort to raise money for Friends of the Osa’s annual Sea Turtle Festival.  SEE Turtles is a project of the Ocean Foundation that promotes conservation tourism by acting as a resource for travelers to connect with volunteer programs or to donate to organizations protecting sea turtles and educating communities.  Through the matching fund launched today, you can donate to support FOO’s Sea Turtle Festival in 2011.

Kids present a performance on sea turtle life cycle

Children perform the life cycle of sea turtles at the Second Annual Osa Sea Turtle Festival

This past September, Friends of the Osa’s Second Annual Sea Turtle Festival was successful in attracting children and their families to the Osa Peninsula’s Carate Beach to learn about sea turtle species, like Olive Ridleys, Green Turtles, Hawksbills and Leatherbacks.  This annual sea turtle festival has been an effective way to develop community interaction and create local understanding about the issue of sea turtle egg poaching.  Through activities, presentations, and contests for children, Friends of the Osa not only spreads awareness of our work but we also take preventative action by ensuring people don’t participate in sea turtle disturbance and habitat destruction.

SEE Turtles covers administrative costs so that 100% of your donation goes towards our 2011 sea turtle festival that educates the community about sea turtle conservation.  The goal of this matching fund is to raise $2,000.  Because sea turtle conservation is an important aspect of FOO’s mission to protect the globally significant biodiversity of the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica, we encourage you to check out the SEE Turtles website to learn more about SEE Turtles and sea turtle conservation beyond the Osa Peninsula.

Volunteers working with sea turtles on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Volunteers working with sea turtles on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Remember that Friends of the Osa also operates a sea turtle conservation program that is open to volunteers from July to December every year.  Volunteer to help save the Osa’s endangered sea turtles!

Community Outreach, Sea Turtles

Second Annual Osa Peninsula Sea Turtle Festival

On Sunday September 12 we celebrated the Second Annual Osa Peninsula Sea Turtle Festival on Carate Beach. The objectives of this annual event are to raise community awareness about the importance of joint actions in the conservation of the sea turtle species that frequent the beaches of the Osa Peninsula in the months of nesting, and to share the objectives and results of Friends of the Osa’s Sea Turtle Conservation Program with the community.

Osa Peninsula Sea Turtle Festival Carate

Children made sea turtle sand sculptures

This year at least 120 people from the communities of Carate, Rio Oro, Piro, and Puerto Jimenez participated in the festival.

Puerto Jimenez students presented the play, “Survival of the Sea Turtles,” which told of the dangers that sea turtles are exposed to from the moment they are born. Educational games were played with children in which they acted out different parts of the sea turtle nesting process and lifecycle. Younger children and their parents made sand sculptures of leatherbacks and adults participated in the presentation about the Sea Turtle Conservation Program Piro-Carate.

We also announced the winners of the drawing contest “Survival of the Sea Turtles,” that was held with students from the Piro and Rio Oro schools. On this sunny day participants also played soccer, beach volleyball, sang karaoke and enjoyed a great picnic prepared by the community.

Community Outreach, Science and Research, Sea Turtles

Party in the jungle!

By Phoebe Edge, Research Field Assistant of the Sea Turtle Conservation Program

We are officially half way through this year´s turtle season and it has been a very busy 3 months indeed! Within this time, we have been continuously patrolling our beaches morning and night to help our favorite reptiles. There seems to never be a dull moment, even the walks to the beach prove exciting! Already, we´ve been fortunate enough to have encountered jaguarundi, coati, caiman, anteaters, armadillos, as well as a variety of beautiful and rare frogs and snakes. Last week on a morning patrol in Carate, Greivin and Phoebe were lucky enough to see a group of 6 humpback whales pass by. It really is like a party in the jungle at the moment! Apparently whales can be camera shy so a group photo was out of the question but here´s a shot of one of the females:

Photo by Carlos García

Of course seeing these animals is all well and good but it is the sea turtles we are here for and they´ve proved not to fail with appearances. Olive Ridley are commonly sighted here with Green´s following second, but in the last month we´ve also had a handful of the critically endangered Leatherback and Hawksbill coming up onto our beaches – amazing! Due to the incubation period of some Olive Ridley nests being 45 days we are also starting to see more and more hatchlings appear too. For anyone who has been in the right place at the right time, you´ll know how incredibly cute these youngsters are! Sadly only 1 in 1000 makes it to adulthood which is why it´s so important that we use all of our best efforts to do what we can. One of our protected nests just hatched yesterday morning and we caught a straggler on her way to her new home, the sea. Fingers crossed she will be one of the females returning to the beach in the future to continue the cycle.

Picture by Carlos García.

Baby sea turtle making its way to sea

We would like to take this opportunity to say a HUGE thank you to all of the fantastic volunteers we´ve already had come and help us in our conservation efforts this year. This is a critical time in the history of sea turtles and with the help of volunteers we as humans really can save them from extinction. Please don´t standby whilst the last of these majestic creatures disappears.  Come get involved and make a difference too!

Science and Research, Sea Turtles

Sea Turtle Conservation Program Piro-Carate: August Update

Last month I shared with you the total data for in situ nests, nest predation and false crawls for the month of July, and mentioned that these data were not adjusted for sampling effort. By sampling effort, I mean the amount of time and / or distance that was invested on each beach to get the data. For example, we monitor 2 km of Piro beach and 4.5 km of Pejeperro beach.  So, it isn’t the same to walk Piro beach and find two turtles as it is to walk Pejeperro beach and find two turtles – the distances covered are very different.  To compare these two values, we must express them in proportion to the distance traveled, i.e. density of turtles per kilometer. In this case, that would be: Piro: 2 / 2 = 1 and Pejeperro: 2 / 4.5 = 0.44.

Sea Turtle Conservation Results through August 2010

Figure 1. Density of sea turtle visits during the months of July and August on the beaches of Piro-Carate, Osa Peninsula 2010.

By calculating the July and August data in this way, taking the sampling effort on each beach into account, we get the results shown in Figure 1. As you can see, Rio Oro is the beach with the highest density of in situ nests, nest predation and false crawls, followed by Pejeperro. From this graph, we can also see that the density of depredated nests on Rio Oro beach is very similar to the density of in situ nests, which is obviously worrying. In the coming days, I will conduct a preliminary analysis of predation in conjunction with Courtney Thomas, one of our assistants, who is using her participation in this project as part of her studies at Evergreen State College.

I would also like to take advantage of this note to thank Mr. Eliecer Villalta and Mr. Geinor Barquero, from MINAET’s Department of Control and Protection, for their support in recent weeks. Their presence, along with other peers in the area, had an immediate effect in reducing poaching of turtle eggs. I hope we can continue to coordinate this type of support throughout the rest of the season.

Remember that you can help us to protect sea turtles that visit the southern part of the Osa Peninsula in several ways: 1) telling others about our project and the importance of protecting sea turtles, 2) participating in our sea turtle volunteer program and 3) by making a donation to help fund the continuation of the Sea Turtle Conservation Program.

Sea Turtles

Sea Turtle Conservation Program Piro-Carate: July Results

This year we started our Sea Turtle Conservation Program with a great challenge, to expand our project to the beaches of Rio Oro and Carate on the southern side of the Osa Peninsula. With an excellent group of Field Coordinators (Geri Cubero, Erick Gomez and Greivin Barroso) and Research Field Assistants (Phoebe Edge, Heidi Montez, Courtney Thomas and Carlos Garcia), under the direction of Manuel Sanchez and Guido Saborio, we have taken the challenge with great enthusiasm. We also have help from Frontier, a volunteer program based in England with whom we have a working agreement that allows these volunteers to participate in Friends of the Osa’s various research projects. It has not been an easy job, because even with the help of volunteers, we are few people to monitor over 18 km of beach. However, the commitment and effort of all participants has allowed us to record a good number of sea turtle visits to the beaches from Piro to Carate in July, the first month of the season.  Without adjusting for people-hours on each beach, Pejeperro beach was the most visited by Olive Ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) during July.  On all the beaches we see the false crawls were the most reported, which could indicate that turtles are making their first expeditions to choose their nesting sites (Fig 1). Although we do not have many reports of East Pacific Greens, or black turtles (Chelonia mydas agassizii), from what we do have, most records are from Pejeperro beach (Fig 1).

July Sea Turtle Results

Unfortunately 39% of depredated nests found in our monitoring is due to egg poaching by humans.To prevent this situation from getting worse during the rest of the season, we will need the support of local people, MINAE (the government authority in charge of enforcing conservation laws), and you.

If you’re asking yourself, “How can I help?”  here are several ways: 1) Let others know about our Sea Turtle Conservation Program and the importance of protecting sea turtles, 2) Sign up to volunteer and 3) Make a donation to allow us to continue our sea turtle conservation efforts in the southern Osa Peninsula.