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Tortuguero Beach, located on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, hosts the largest green turtle rookery in the Western Hemisphere. For 60 years, Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) has conducted an annual research and conservation program at Tortuguero, which has achieved phenomenal success at increasing sea turtle population levels and replacing the consumptive use of sea turtles with sustainable ecotourism.
Despite this history of achievement, the sea turtle species nesting at this beach still face numerous threats, one of the most pressing of which is climate change and the toll it is taking on the reproductive success and survivability of green turtles. One of the key ways rising temperatures impact sea turtles is in the ratio of male and female hatchlings being produced (warmer temperatures produce mostly female turtles).
STC will use a new, non-lethal method to determine the sex ratios of sea turtles hatching at Tortuguero. This will provide the first-ever information on this issue in the area and will help STC develop conservation management strategies to address the impacts of climate change on this globally important population.
STC will also train local biologists to carry out this important program, which will build conservation capacity in the region. Another critical element of the project is an ongoing program to create and maintain a sustainable eco-tourism program that directly benefits local communities and minimizes any harmful impacts on turtle nesting.
A short video from World Nomads on the work STC is doing in Tortuguero and how tourism is positively impacting this important turtle nesting site.
The budget for this project is $69,500. These costs include salaries for the project’s research coordinators, research supplies and equipment, food for station staff and volunteers, gas for project boats, and travel support for our research assistants. STC raises a portion of annual project costs through revenue from the Visitor’s Center (entrance fees and merchandise sales), as well as from several annual grants from supporting foundations. Research Assistants are unpaid, but STC provides room and board throughout the season. STC is seeking $25,000 through this campaign to help fully fund the project. See itemized budget below:
STC works hard to develop good relationships with the public schools in Tortuguero, and leaders of the communities where we work. We work closely with Costa Rica’s Ministry of Environment, as well as park rangers who oversee Tortuguero National Park. STC also provides training each year to local nature tour guides, including information on basic sea turtle biology, nesting behavior, and best practices to reduce impacts of tourist activities on nesting turtles.
STC is a guiding member of the Tortuguero Conservation Area Regional Council, which is comprised of representatives of NGOs, education centers and the private sector; the Council plays a key role in the administration and management decisions of the Tortuguero Conservation Area (ACTo), including many issues that directly impact sea turtle conservation.
Within Costa Rica, STC shares its expertise and its data with a wide array of NGOs and government bodies. As a member of the Consultative Committee of the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Marine Turtles, STC has been able to share critical information to guide this international sea turtle accord.
For 60 years, STC has conducted sea turtle research and protection on the Caribbean coast of Central America. This project as a continuation from previously completed Footprints Network project fits well with the organization’s long-term strategies and goals for sea turtle recovery. All sea turtle species in the world face considerable threats from climate change, especially in Latin America.
In order to systematically improve sea turtle survival, STC must learn about the impacts of climate change that are taking place in Tortuguero in order to reduce these impacts in the future. This program will help accomplish this overall goal.