One of the most influential experiences that my family has had in our time in Costa Rica has been our experiences with turtle conservation. Turtle poaching is a huge problem here, so in parts of the country there are conservation programs where people from all over the world come to volunteer to help preserve these endangered species. The two types of turtles that we were able to see were the Olive Ridley, the smallest sea turtles and the Leatherback Sea Turtles, the largest most endangered turtles.
The job of the volunteer is to patrol the beach 24 hours a day for Mama Turtles to come out of the ocean and onto the sand where they dig a hole about a foot deep. As the mama is laying her eggs, the volunteers collect them and put them in a bag. They also measure the mama and document anything they find about her characteristics.
After the mama is finished laying her eggs, the volunteers take the bag of eggs back to the hatchery where they dig a hole, and place the eggs in it, cover it with sand and put a net around it. This way no raccoons or poachers will get in. The mama covers her hole and makes her way back into the ocean.
The eggs remain in the man-made nest for about 45 days until the turtles break the shells open and come to the surface of the sand. There is usually around 80-120 turtles hatched per nest. After they all come to the surface, the volunteers dig up the hole to make sure there are no more left. They take 10 baby turtles and measure them and weigh them for their records.
The babies are then released from the top of the beach. They walk their little selves to the ocean where the waves will take them out to sea. They encourage them to walk themselves from the approximate distance that the mama would have made the nest. This way the babies are able to build up muscle strength in order to swim in the big ocean. At this time, the turtles build into their cellular memory the place that they were born so when it is time for the females to lay their own eggs they know where to come back to.
This experience we witnessed about a dozen times living on the beach in Montezuma, Costa Rica. What a gift that we were able to experience. A TRUE Earth Mama’s journey!