It is coming upon Springtime in the USA, and here in the tropical waters of Panama, we are getting ready for an arrival of hundreds of mother turtles.
I am hoping to be able to film the amazing experience in the next few weeks alongside my friends from the Smithsonian Marine Research Institute, as it truly is one of the most amazing feats of motherhood that one can witness. Masses of mother sea turtles come thousands of miles to lay their eggs on the same beach where they were born. Then, after the exhausting swim, they haul their marine adapted bodies ashore, to lay there eggs in a nest buried in the sand.
Imagine if we all did that? I wonder where we humans would most congregate to, hmmm….
We did a show on the turtles for Animal Planet in Costa Rica, and I was flabbergasted at the reality of the situation. The Costa Rican officials say that they only allow the harvesting of the eggs by the locals for 48 hours, until the next arribada arrives with the eggs, and then they are to be left alone…but that was not the case in Ostinal, Costa Rica. The collectors came by the hoards! Digging, sacking, selling and totally destroying the nests and taking all the eggs. A few efforts have been done to collect eggs and incubate them in a safe house, but the government hides the reality of the story very well. Armed guards do guard the beaches, but they are easily paid off, as well that most of the gatherers are family members of the guards. This is my first hand experience in Costa Rica with the turtles!!
Well- I have attached a few of the videos from the Costa Rica shoot.
But those turtle mothers, they struggle and travel so far to lay their eggs on the very same beach that they were born on…. now with construction and development, not only are the eggs at risk for poaching, the beaches themselves may no longer be there!
Thoughts on Costa Rican Conservation:
I was so sad, and the strangest bit is how the world perceives Costa Rica as one of the greenest countries, yet they allow this! And they are cutting down their forests at a rate (per capita) that rivals the Brazilian Amazon. I am also disgusted at the management of the fisheries there, we went a board a fishing boat, and the hulls were full of sharks (for shark fin soup). The law in Costa Rica is that the ship can come in with sharks, IF the fins are attached to the body of the shark. Of course this left room for loopholes, and the fisher men would catch many sharks, chop off the fins, and then keep the smallest shark body and zip tie as many fins to the small body, for more space and weight for the fins….
Can you believe it?
An arribada is a unique nesting phenomenon common to the “Ridley” sea turtles.
As they evolved, ridley sea turtles adopted a unique nesting behavior that increases their offspring’s chance of survival. They deposit more eggs in the sand than predators can consume. No other species of marine turtle mimics this type of nesting behavior. Both species of ridley practice the phenomenon known as “predator swamping”. “Predator swamping” can also be observed as hatchlings emerge from their nests in large numbers. This behavior overwhelms the predators that wait to eat them on the beach. The odds are very good that at least one offspring from any one female will survive to reach adulthood and introduce that parent’s genetic information into the gene pool.
On unprotected beaches it is estimated that, for some species of marine turtles, only one out of one thousand or one in ten thousand hatchlings survive to adulthood. With current conservation efforts in place on nesting beaches, the current mathematical model now suggests that the survival rate is one out of three hundred.