Thursday, 14 January 2016 08:58

Ten target animals for our upcoming Costa Rica Tour - No 3 - Sea turtles

I have long been intrigued by the thought of witnessing huge sea turtles dragging themselves on to a beach, to nest in the exact same place that they were born after circumnavigating the entire globe for many years. It is something that still eludes me to this day after various attempts. In all the places I have been to, I have never witnessed this phenomenen, so this time I have planned it to perfection (hopefully :]). The closest I have been so far is in Kenya, where our friends at Watamu Turtle watch alerted us to the fact that an Olive Ridley turtle had laid its eggs in the wrong place over night, next to our hotel. Our group helped dig the eggs up and relocate them to a safer place, higher up the beach. But, we didn't actually witness the turtle come on to the beach to dig the nest. Everywhere else I have been, including Costa Rica, has been the right place at the wrong time.

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On the forthcoming Costa Rica trip this July, we are going at the perfect time of year, to one of the most important turtle nesting sites in the world, Tortuguero National Park. The clue is in the parks title, Tortuguero - Region of turtles. Green, leatherback, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles all nest on the 22 miles of protected beaches of Tortuguero.

Turtles globally are threatened and have a hard enough time surviving at sea without the problems they face when coming to nest on land. Their main land-based threat has historically been man and by the 1970's the green turtle was nearly wiped out completely due to the demand for their meat and eggs. To this day, the eggs are still eaten and sold on Costa Rican markets but they are monitored using very strict quotas. Tortuguero and its village is an excellent model for conservation because the green turtle has dramatically recovered from virtually nothing in the 70's to nearly 3000 tagged in recent nesting surveys. This is down to the efforts of local conservation groups who try to empower locals and inject cash from the ever increasing amount of tourists coming to the area. They want to prove to the locals that the money from eco-tourism is much more beneficial and sustainable than the meat or eggs can ever be.


Turtle populations are now doing well in this area, which doesn't go unoticed by their natural predators, namely the 3rd biggest cat in the world, the jaguar. Recent research has shown that jaguars from all over Costa Rica migrate to tortuguero at this time of year to take advantage of the sheer amount of fresh meat arriving on their shores. The turtles are easy pickings for the jaguars and sometimes they will only eat their heads, especially if they don't manage to break into their shell (which they are capable of).


Jaguars are very territorial, so you can imagine what will happen if you put a large amount of jaguars in one place. They will become more restless and will be moving around tirelessly, especially on the beaches where the turtles are. This makes sightings of these cats all the more possible, and is the hence the season when sightings are reported most.


On the trip we will be doing night excursions to witness as much of the action as we can. If you fancy coming with me to try see these events (and some sleepless turtle / jaguar stalking nights) then please let me know ASAP as there is a limit to the amount of people we can take. Info here:

Facebook event page is here:

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