An Environmental Internship with Sea Turtles Forever
Today’s post is from Dealer Service Representative Lindsey Jensen, who is on a two-month hiatus from her desk at our Reno Distribution Center for an environmental internship in Los Pargos, Costa Rica, with Sea Turtles Forever.
The group works on behalf of five endangered marine turtle species, including the Eastern Pacific Green and Black, Hawksbill, Leatherback, and the threatened Olive Ridley. They try to protect turtle nests, eliminate plastics from nesting areas and educate and work with the Los Pargos community on all aspects of conservation.
Lindsey goes on night patrols, walking long stretches of beach to find signs of nesting activity. If she finds any, she tries to camouflage nests to protect them from poachers. She also visits schools to talk about sea turtles and their importance to the ecosystem, and is collecting information on the amounts and types of marine plastics recovered from the outlying ocean and beaches.
[Top – Lindsey stands in front of a poster explaining that it is against the law to take turtle eggs. Lower – Critically endangered green turtle (Chelonia mydas) hatchlings. All photos courtesy, Lindsey Jensen]
I live in a wooden cabina, which is a small cabin on high stilts off the ground, keeping out some dust and giving me a view of the ocean that’s great at sunset. The town here is really small, and on the way to the beach I pass a handful of restaurants and a little tienda with water and snacks. I am told that in previous years this place crawled with tourists and surfers, but the downtrodden economy has really impacted tourism. By day I mostly read, or go to the ocean to swim or surf, although my surf efforts haven’t really paid off. The waves here are super hollow and not too beginner-friendly. And while I am fine with getting pounded and thrashed, my boards aren’t so resilient; I’ve already broken two. One is now being fixed, so I’ll be back out there soon, ready to give it another go, maybe with a little more care and attention.
Come dark I save turtles, and I love it! We go out either at night or early in the morning, depending on the tide, and hike four of the local beaches — sometimes twice — looking for any turtle activity. We’ve caught countless nesting turtles, these huge dinosaur-like creatures, and we monitor them to see if they nest, then tag them and measure them. If they do lay eggs, then depending on the location they choose, we hide the nest so a poacher cannot find it, or we move the eggs to a more shaded, less-traversed location. I have witnessed first-hand that any nest not hidden or moved is poached every time. It’s something that Ticos [local Costa Ricans] have been doing for generations. It’s almost understandable in light of the current economy, where there is less and less work and a fat turtle nest will get you at least $20. That’s more than some people make in a few days. Fortunately, the local community for the most part is behind conservation efforts and want turtles on the beaches, but it only takes a couple of poachers to really put a dent in the number of nests and hatchlings.
And oh the hatchlings! These are my favorite part They are so cute and amazing to watch. The healthy ones literally bubble up out of the nest and charge to the sea. We monitor every nest and reclaim the eggs to know how many hatched, versus how many eggs were laid, and if there were any other factors affecting the nest and hatch rate. Last week we hatched out over 900 tortugitas [baby turtles] It’s amazing that at 4 in the morning with three hours of sleep, I am wide awake watching babies hatch, large turtles throwing tons of sand in order to make a nest, and the Southern Cross rise in the sky.
[Pic 3 – Lindsey’s cabina; Pic 4 – Playa Negra, the closest beach and surf break; Pic 5 – Marc Ward, who started Sea Turtles Forever along with his wife Rachel, exhumes the eggs of a recently hatched nest to collect data; Pic 6 – Witch’s Rock, a surf spot north of Los Pargos]