Saving the turtles
Volunteering at a turtle conservation project in Matapalo was by far the most meaningful experience I’ve had in Costa Rica.
We visited the hatchery as part of our “Ecological Richness of Costa Rica” class. All of us were split into patrols, either walking along the beach collecting eggs or releasing hatched turtles into the ocean. All of them were at night.
My first job was a 3 a.m. shift at the hatchery, monitoring the nests for any hatched turtles. Just as the sun was rising, we found one, lone lora turtle walking around its nest. It was part of another batch that had been born earlier that evening, and it was just late to the party.
We named it “Vida,” which mean “life” in Spanish. Watching it waddle along the sand, back into the ocean, to its home, was incredible and life-affirming.
Normally, these turtles are born in a nest in the sand. But threats, both natural (snakes, crabs, foxes, etc.) as well as man-made (poachers), have driven them to near-extinction.
To protect those eggs, I went on a four-hour patrol in the dead of night. We hiked a total of 9 kilometers at a power-walking speed. On our way back, our guide Daniel spotted a mother lora turtle making her nest. It was majestic, watching this mother laboriously, yet gracefully, make a home for her babies.
We carefully took her measurements and removed the eggs, all 103 of them, and placed them in a bag to bring back to the hatchery to be cared for by the volunteers until they hatched.
The work that these volunteers do every day and every night is not easy, but it is necessary. If these volunteers are successful, they could serve as an example for all turtle conservation efforts in Costa Rica.
Without them, without us, these turtles, as a species, would not survive.