Endangered sea turtles get their day in Costa Rica

An endangered green sea turtle

An endangered green sea turtle

According to the World Wildlife Fund, nearly all species of sea turtles are Endangered. The reasons are many – poaching for their meat or eggs, habitat destruction, boat strikes, ingesting plastic debris and “accidental” trapping in vast gill nets causing their deaths are a few of them. The Sea Turtle Conservancy is making huge strides to save these magnificent creatures.

The oldest sea turtle organization in the world, the Conservancy’s mission is to protect / recover sea turtle populations around the world, especially in Central America. Its long-term monitoring protection program, established in 1995. is in Tortuguero, on the northeastern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.

Tortuguero is unique, says David Godfrey, the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s Executive Director. And you can’t drive there. You can only fly or take a bot to get there.

Also, most of the land is protected as most of the beachfront is encompassed by Tortuguero National Park, which encompasses over 19,000 hectares (46,900 acres) and protects 22 miles of black sand prime turtle nesting beach.

“Tortuguero is the epicenter of sea turtle conservation,” he said. “It’s the most important green turtle nesting site in the western hemisphere.”

But other endangered turtles nest there too. This includes giant leatherback, loggerhead and rare hawksbill,turtles.

Turtle release in 2014 Tortuguero Tour de Turtles

Turtle release in 2014 Tortuguero Tour de Turtles

Turtles are migratory animals. So the Conservancy attaches satellite transfers to as many of them as possible each year. They then use satellite telemetry to track them. The Conservancy has also developed a free education program that’s based on the satellite migration of turtles that they track from different nesting sites in Central America and around the Caribbean.

The Tour de Turtles tracks turtles that are being tagged at different locations during the summer. Some were tagged and released in Panama in late May.This week is the annual Tour de Turtles event in Tortuguero, where the tags are attached to three green turtles that will be tagged and then released. On July 1st, 2nd and 3rd the Minister of Environment (MINAI) will be there to help release the turtles, sending them off their annual migration.

We’re still trying to learn about their migratory patterns, said Godfrey.


Turtle release 2

Turtles migrate from different locations. Some turtles were tagged and released in Panama in late May. Some hawksbill turtles will be released from the island of Nevis – a small island in the Caribbean Sea that forms part of the inner arc of the Leeward Islands chain of the West Indies – in mid-July. The final turtles will be released in Florida on August 1 and 2.

The official “race” begins after all the turtles in all locations are tagged and released.

During the “race”, you can get involved in supporting various causes each tagged turtle will be swimming for, including reducing light pollution which affects their ability to nest.

Don’t miss your chance to follow the turtles migration. You’ll be able to tune in and track them online after August 1st. Just go to the website,then click the link to “Turtles” at the top and you’ll be able to see the turtles already being tracked.

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