After we created an album on Facebook with pictures from Torio, someone who was a guest at Patricia and Bob’s Airbnb apartment once, contacted us. He told us that the next morning he’d went to the beach to see sea turtles and offered to take us with him. Unfortunately we read that too late, but he sent us a photo of the sign of the foundation which takes care of sea turtles. So I found them at Google Maps and contacted Jacinto (the person in charge) via WhatsApp. The hatched turtles are sent on their journey at 7 in the morning and 18 in the evening.
So we drove to Morillo on Friday morning at 6:30 a.m., which is about 15 minutes away.
Agua y Tierra employs three people who have dedicated their lives to turtles. They live directly on the beach and spend their days and nights there to protect the turtles. They patrol the beach at night so that the turtles can lay their eggs undisturbed. Afterwards they collect them and bring them to a fenced area directly at the house. There they are safe from poachers, dogs, birds and other animals.
They had to do a lot of educational and persuasive work. The locals dug up the eggs to eat them and hunted some turtles. Meanwhile this is no longer happening, the education is getting better and you they noticed that you can live better from tourists than from the eggs. And without the turtles less tourists would come. In general, a lot is changing. Many people just burn their garbage in the garden. But the children are taught at school that this is bad for the environment and the climate.
The foundation has existed for 8 years and receives no state support. The whole thing is financed by donations, but we really don’t know how they do it. There is hardly any advertising and without the reference, we would not have known that it exists. Although it is only a few kilometres away.
The olive bastard turtles belong to the smallest sea turtles. With a length of approx. 70 cm they reach a weight of up to 50 kg. In comparison: The leatherback turtle can reach a length of up to 2.5 m and a weight of 700 kg! They mainly live in the Pacific and the Indian Ocean. Once they are fully grown, they prefer to live in shallower waters near the coast.
They feed on crabs, shrimps, jellyfish (unfortunately this is often a disaster for them and the other sea turtles as they are confused by plastic bags), sea urchins and other sea animals.
After about 10-20 years, they return to their birthplace for the first time to lay about 100 eggs themselves. Then they repeat this every year. These are incubated in the sand by the sun, and after 45-60 days small turtles hatch, as can be seen on the pictures and in the videos. 🙂
Sadly, very few will make it and most will not live to be that old. Probably only about 1 %, the rate might be better, depending on the location.
Panama was in the 70-80’s behind Cuba, the second largest exporter of turtles and their shells, which went almost exclusively to Japan. It is believed that meat increases potency and talismans from turtles bring luck. 🙁
Fortunately these times are over, but hundreds of thousands of turtles were caught and killed. It will be a long time before the population recovers if this ever happens in times of tons of waste in the ocean and global warming.
It was a very beautiful, almost sublime experience to see these little turtles waddling into the sea. We were allowed to take them out of the hatchery, count them (there were 37) and then take them to the water. We were very annoyed that we didn’t make it in Costa Rica. All the happier we are that it worked out here now with the turtles. 🙂 Thankfully, there are people who are committed to their survival!