project news

Volunteers witness the start of the turtle egg hatching season.

News item submitted by Jonathon Usherwood
News item dated 27 Jan 2011


This morning volunteers on Frontier’s Costa Rica Project witnessed the hatching of a nest of Olive Ridley sea turtles. One of the project’s aims is to protect and monitor turtle laying and hatching on the 10km of nearby beach.

Female turtles haul themselves onto the beach usually at night to excavate a hole in the sand into which they lay around a hundred eggs. These eggs incubate under the sand for 50 days until they hatch and the young turtles dig their way to the surface. These young turtles then crawl to the sea running a gauntlet of predators such as birds, crabs and raccoons. Once they’ve reached sea they swim another gauntlet of predators such as fish and squid. The young turtles take over a decade to reach maturity and few survive, however when mature adult turtles have few natural predators. Female adult turtles show high laying fidelity, often returning to the beach they were born to lay their eggs.

Unfortunately all species of sea turtle are endangered due to human activity. Over exploitation of their eggs as food can greatly reduce the number of hatchlings. In addition waterfront developments are destroying many important nesting beaches. Most serious of all however is the killing of adults for food or as fishing bycatch.

The Costa Rica Project is working to minimize the dangers to hatchling turtles by patrolling beaches to deter poachers. When nests are found wire meshes are placed over to protect against animals digging up the eggs. In addition nests that are found below the high water mark are relocated to drier sands to prevent the eggs from rotting. By minimizing the dangers to hatchling turtles the Frontier volunteers are increasing the number of turtles making it to the sea and hopefully therefore increasing the number that surviving to maturity and return to the beach to lay their eggs. One of the rewards of this hard work is seeing new hatchlings making it safely to the sea.