Olive Ridley Sea Turtle
When I used to think of sea turtles, I also thought of peaceful turquoise-blue water with colorful coral reefs and fish. Nowadays, my image unfortunately changed. Due to plastic pollution of the sea and fish hunting with huge nets (where the turtles die as by-catch) as well as the direct hunt for turtle meat, their shells or their eggs, the population of sea turtles has declined drastically in the last years. The result: today all seven sea turtle species on Earth are in endangered.
In Playa Bandera, our small Costa Rican village, some volunteers found each other with the goal to increase the population of sea turtles. The main focus of their work is on the native turtle „tortuga lora”, who in German has the unpleasant name of “Bastard turtle”. We both, Julina and I, were allowed to participate several times in different activities, such as collecting eggs or releasing babies during our stay here.
To lay eggs, the female turtles return, in the shelter of the dark, to the beach where they themselves hatched. With their fin-shaped legs they dig a hole in the sad, lay between 40 and 130 eggs in it and normally cover them up with sand afterwards. The task of the volunteers is either to collect the golf ball sized eggs while the turtle is still laying them or with the help of their traces to locate the nests to dig them out again. The collected eggs are then put into cages and buried back in the sand, which protect them from humans and animals. After about 60 days the first babies hatch and will be released back on the beach. The last few meters into the water they have to manage themselves, so they will remember “their” beach to return to in the future. The release of the young turtles is usually a big event with many spectators. On the one hand this is to raise the awareness of the population for the protection of the seas and animals and on the other hand of course because it is very cute to watch how the babies run into the water. At this point the volunteer work is completed, but how many sea turtles will survive and come back to their beach to lay eggs themselves is up to the stars.