Turtle Conservation Project in Costa Rica

Overview of the Project

Sea turtles always return to nest on the beach at which they were hatched, but many turtles never return due to natural predators and the ones who do face eroding beaches, pollution and other physical challenges upon arrival. Conservation efforts for the Lora Turtle can do little to combat natural predators, but focus on protecting the nesting population who does return “home”. Human poachers also pose a threat on top of natural challenges. The rate of decline is so high that, if not slowed, the Lora Turtle will be extinct in two decades.

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  • Program: Volunteer in Costa Rica
  • Project: Turtle Conservation Project in Costa Rica
  • Start dates: 1st and 3rd Mondays of each month
  • Departure and End Point: San Jose International Airport (Juan Santamaria)
  • Location: North Pacific or Caribbean Coast
  • Language Need: English fluency mandatory; Basic/intermediate Spanish fluency preferred
  • Accommodation and meals: host family and Costa Rican meals three times daily
  • Activities: Preserve turtle nesting sites and protect turtles from poachers and predators
  • Working hours: 25-35 hours per week

Role of Volunteer

Costa Rican Lora Turtle conservation efforts mainly focus on protecting nesting sites, incubation and release of hatchlings. Our volunteer projects throughout the country are placed where the majority of turtles return to nest. Each beach has varied nesting seasons and the nesting timing is different for all species of sea turtles. These variations produce varied project dates and locations.

  • Typical volunteer duties include day and night beach patrols of nesting sites to protect turtles and eggs from poachers. Night patrols are challenging with commitments between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. regardless of weather. Patrols run in 4-hour shifts, but longer if turtles or eggs are located.
  • Research and documentation helps future efforts. The collection of vital data and newly laid eggs and recently hatched turtles for release when they are larger and stronger is crucial for conservation progress. Statistics are also collected when a turtle is located and volunteers measure and tag the turtle.
  • Hatchery shifts tend to run about six hours and are exciting. Duties include relocating nests, keeping predators at bay, providing information to tourists and releasing hatchlings.
  • Other possible volunteer duties include trail and beach maintenance and clean-up.

Skills/Qualification Needed

Much of the turtle conservation work is physical in nature, so volunteers must be in good physical health, able to walk long distances (about 7-15 km per night) and resistant to the heat and humidity of this climate. Good eyesight is necessary, non-smokers are preferred for this placement, and volunteers must speak English fluently. Challenging conditions are the norm and night patrols are an important part of this project. Volunteers should be aware of any insect allergies as mosquitoes and sand flies are persistent. First-aid training is preferred, and previous experience with sea turtle conservation efforts is appreciated, but the local staff will provide training.

Volunteer in Costa Rica: Project Locations and Free Time Options

Global Crossroad’s Turtle conservation project in Costa Rica is located North Pacific Coast and in Caribbean Coast. The North Pacific Coast has sunny days and stunning beaches. The area is also characterized by fishing communities living in rural villages. The area is very accessible from San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica. Compared to other parts of Costa Rica, the climate along the North Pacific Coast is typically hot and dry. Home to vast expanses of tropical dry forests that often line the beaches, this area plays host to an array of animals including many species of sea birds and monkeys.

 

Costa Rica's Caribbean Coast runs 125 miles from the northern Nicaraguan border to the southern border with Panama. Exotic nature reserves, such as the famous Tortuguero National Park, beckon adventurous travelers, while alluring southern beaches allow visitors to relax in an easy Caribbean vibe. With a mesh of Tico and Afro-Caribbean culture, Limon Province displays a unique side of Costa Rica.