A crowd of about 100 people gathered to celebrate the rehabilitation and release of two sea turtles at Hangar’s Beach at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida this past week. The event was a feel-good story on the local news, bringing a passing smile to those who watched and read about it.
However, this fight for the preservation of sea turtles is an everyday struggle in Costa Rica, especially at the Osa Peninsula Turtle Sanctuary which rescues, rehabilitates and releases injured sea turtles daily.
This amazing work and care for these endangered animals is not met with TV cameras, reporters, or fanfare, but the Osa Peninsula Turtle Sanctuary has long been dedicated to the preservation of sea turtles, with an experienced staff of conservation experts, veterinarians, and engaged volunteers and interns. They are an award-winning program with multiple projects throughout Costa Rica, including Cahuita National Park, Pacuare Beach, and the Dulce Gulf of the Peninsula Osa.
If you’re thinking of becoming part of our excellent “Voluntourism” program, here is a closer look at one of the Costa Rican’s natives you’ll be working alongside: sea turtles.
One for the ages
Sea turtles are among the oldest-living species on the planet, with seven different species found in the ocean today. Those types of turtles have been around for over 110 million years. Sea turtles have an average life expectancy of 80 years, however, with environmental changes and habitats being destroyed, that number is dangerously ticking down. And that’s if the sea turtle actually reaches reproductive maturity.
At birth, about 80 percent of eggs laid actually hatch and from that only half survive the trip from egg to ocean, as predators feed on newly-hatched sea turtles and eggs. Once in the ocean, just 50 percent of those turtles make it to the juvenile stages of development. When you add in natural threats and human factors, about two out of 1,000 sea turtles actually live long enough to reach that 80-year expectancy.
As mentioned, natural predators play a big role the mortality rate of sea turtle species. But that impact is part of the natural cycle. The outside factor – one that we can control – is the human influence on the sea turtle population. And this impact is the focus of our rescue and rehabilitation programs.
Coastal development has ravaged sea turtle habitats, including the beaches where they lay their ages. That has come via construction and also pollution, with those developments and residential communities impacting water quality. Aggressive fisheries have also plagued the sea turtle population, with fishing nets being the main culprits but also boats colliding and damaging sea turtles in their habitats.
Making a difference
Sea turtles are listed as vulnerable or critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. This puts a big importance on protecting those breeding grounds as well as the beach where sea turtles lay eggs.
The Osa Peninsula Turtle Sanctuary works with top biologist and conservation experts to find and protect those areas, as well as rescue and rehabilitate any sea turtles found injured or in danger. The volunteer program puts you right in the middle of this cause, combing the sun-soaked Costa Rican beaches and snorkeling crystal-clear waters alongside these incredible creatures, connecting with one of nature’s most precious creations on a level no tourist trap can provide.
If you really want to make a difference, contact the Osa Peninsula Turtle Sanctuary for more information on our award-winning volunteer program.