Volunteer to Protect Sea Turtles in Costa Rica

If you have ever considered volunteering in Costa Rica to protect sea turtles, then this is the blog for you! Sea turtles in Costa Rica are classified as endangered and are nearing extinction due to humans and natural factors.

Below, I will discuss why our programme to protect sea turtles exists, the reasons that sea turtles became endangered, and how you can help to protect them.

Volunteers with sea turtles in Costa Rica"
Eggs of Leatherback turtle"

Why This Programme Exists

This project is located in Costa Rica because sea turtles go to Costa Rica en masse to lay their eggs. It is here that poachers raid their nests in order to steal and sell their eggs. Poaching and various natural processes have led to the significant reduction in the number of sea turtles in Costa Rica. The leatherback turtle population, for example, has declined by over 98% in 30 years in the region.

A significant impediment in the fight to increase the population of sea turtles is their low reproduction rates. A sea turtle can take between 20 and 50 years before it is ready to mate and reproduce. Therefore, even if a sea turtle’s eggs are able to hatch, and that turtle avoids predators, it will still take decades before that turtle is able to positively contribute to sea turtle numbers.

Another reason that sea turtles need to be protected is due to the role that they play in the ecosystem. Their existence is not only beneficial to other animals, but to humans as well. An example of this is when sea turtles eat jellyfish who would otherwise eat the larvae of fish that are wanted for human consumption. By eating these jellyfish, more fish survive which can be eaten by humans.

Volunteers in Costa Rica"
Volunteers with sea turtle in Costa Rica"

Reasons That Sea Turtles Are Endangered

Below, I will discuss some reasons that contributed to sea turtles becoming endangered.

Egg Poaching: poachers raid the nests of sea turtles and sell their eggs. Weak enforcement contributes to this because it has been illegal to take turtle eggs from beaches since 1996. Despite this, poaching has risen by 30% since this law came into place. The demand for these eggs arises because they are thought to be an aphrodisiac.

Commercial Fishing: many sea turtles are killed during commercial fishing operations.

Plastic Pollution: sea turtles often die due to ingesting plastic pollution. This occurs when they confuse floating plastic matter for food.

Habitat Destruction: the development of beachfront properties encroach on the nesting habitats of sea turtles. Additionally, light plays an important role at various points of a turtle’s life cycle. When baby turtles hatch, they instinctively go towards the brightest light, which is ordinarily the sea. With so much light from cities, baby turtles go towards land instead of the sea. When the sun eventually rises, the baby turtles die due to being exposed to heat from the sun. This is called light pollution, which refers to artificial light in the night environment.

Climate Change: although the full impact of climate change on sea turtles is yet to be fully quantified, factors such as rising sea levels and warmer temperatures are said to pose a threat to sea turtles. Temperature, for example, has a profound impact on the survival of sea turtles. The temperature of the sand doesn’t just impact how long turtles need to grow before hatching, it also dictates the sex of the baby. The latter is a phenomenon called temperature-dependent sex determination. Differences in temperature brought on by climate change impact the ratio of females to males among sea turtles.

Volunteers releasing sea turtles into the ocean"
Weighing hatched turtle"

How You Can Help

If you feel inclined to help protect the sea turtles, you can volunteer with Globalteer at the Costa Rica Sea Turtle Project. You can volunteer between 1 and 12 weeks between March and October. Anybody over 18 years old with a passion for conservation and a reasonable level of physical fitness is encouraged to apply. During your volunteership, you will be provided with accommodation and three meals a day.

As a volunteer, you will work to protect the eggs from poachers and predators until they hatch. Your duties would include moving the eggs from the nests to hatcheries. Here, the eggs are protected until they hatch, and the baby sea turtles can safely be released into the ocean. Your other duties would include patrolling the beach to find nests, monitoring the hatchery, and collecting data on nesting activities.

It won’t be all work and no play during your volunteership. You will also have free time to relax and enjoy the sights in Costa Rica. During your time off, you can go to the beach and rainforest, snorkel, and bath in hot springs. You can also enjoy the wildlife and biodiversity of the area, visit a volcano, and enjoy the nightlife in the area. There are plenty of activities to ensure that you are able to have fun while doing fulfilling work.

Volunteers with sea turtles in Costa Rica"
Volunteer releases sea turtles in Costa Rica"

Globalteer works to protect other animals beyond sea turtles. Click on the tab below to browse our various volunteer programmes.