I first wrote this article in November 2009 when people started sending me these outrageous emails proclaiming “world shame” on Costa Rica and, “maybe we have just discovered why the sea turtle is going extinct…”
In receiving these emails at least ten times per week, I think it’s truly amazing how many people feel it’s OK to forward these lies around the world without doing 30 seconds of homework…
I must confess that when I was first confronted with these photographs of people taking thousands of turtle eggs from the beach at Ostional my first emotion was disgust but, having learned from the lies of politicians – but only when their lips are moving – I spent 20 minutes looking into it to discover that it’s A: Legal and B: Encouraged and here’s why:
During the arribadas – the arrivals – hundreds of thousands of Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) sea turtles lay an estimated 10 – 20 million eggs at the Playa Ostional Wildlife Refuge in Santa Cruz, Guanacaste. On average the females will lay around 100 eggs each.
The baby Olive Ridley turtles will hatch in 45 — 55 days and will immediately head out to sea in search of their first meal. Very few actually survive to maturity but, believe it or not, in 10 -15 years the female adults will somehow find their way back to this exact same beach where they too will lay their eggs.
“Some visitors are still horrified at the sight of scores of people scurrying around the beach, happily looting sea turtle nests. “The first thing they ask is, ‘Why take the eggs?'” says the co-op’s staff biologist, Jorge Ballestero. “But when they see the turtles destroying other eggs, it’s easier to understand.”
Scientists found out that most of the eggs deposited in the first nights of an arribada are destroyed by subsequent turtles who dig their nests.
Therefore, since 1987, the government of Costa Rica allows on an annual, temporary suspension of the international ban on turtle-egg taking that the community of Ostional may harvest the doomed eggs on the first two dawns of an arribada. In return, the community must protect the turtles, clean debris from the beaches and patrol day and night for poachers.”
“Members of the Ostional community have been organized into a cooperative that is allowed to harvest a small percentage of eggs (an average of 11 percent) in return for providing local rangers to protect the majority of eggs.
Various studies have suggested that this number of eggs can be harvested without impacting total hatching success.
“The results have been astounding from a socio-economic stand point. Instead of an uncontrolled massive illegal harvest which occurred in the 1980s and earlier, today there is a controlled harvest, supported by the entire town, which has brought economic vitality to the community.
When biologists first arrived to study the site in the 1980s, they were met with mistrust and even violence. Today, there is virtually 100% support from the community to protect the turtles.”
Important Note: I have spent hours trying to track down the person who took these photographs which were emailed to me (and hundreds of other people) which we have used in this article and have failed miserably so, if you did take these photographs and object to me using them here – even though the emails specifically asked that they be forwarded to everyone – please contact me immediately.
Written by Scott Oliver, author of 1: How To Buy Costa Rica Real Estate Without Losing Your Camisa, 2: Costa Rica’s Guide To Making Money Offshore and 3. ¿Cómo Comprar Bienes Raíces en Costa Rica, Sin Perder Su Camisa?
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