Volunteer Tourism: Turtle Conservation in Costa Rica (Video)

Baby Turtle, Costa Rica

As mentioned in my article Destinations on a Dime: Costa Rica, I was fortunate enough to spend a few weeks backpacking across Costa Rica and volunteering with a Turtle Conservation Project with IVHQ.

For those of you who don’t know, there are four types of sea turtles in Costa Rica: Leatherbacks, Greens, Olive Ridley and Hawksbill. The specific project I worked on was with leatherback turtles off the Caribbean coast. Why did they need us?

Because the leatherback sea turtle population has dropped by over 90% since 1980.

I’ll let that sink in for a minute.

90 percent. It’s insane. So why is this happening? Because baby turtles are not surviving long enough to reach adulthood and reproduce. When a female leatherback is ready to lay eggs, she comes ashore and digs a hole with her flippers, laying about 80 eggs each time. This will happen up to 12 times per breeding season, and after about two months the baby turtles will hatch – that is if the eggs haven’t been taken by poachers to sell or eaten by animals.

If they do make it to hatching, they then need to make it out of their shell to the water, without being swooped up by birds. If they make it to the water, they’re on their own to face the dangers of climate change, boat traffic, fishing gear, and predators. Hence the alarming drop in population.

During my time volunteering with IVHQ on this project, we were fortunate to see a few turtles during patrols in the night and move their eggs to a safe location, as well as see a couple baby turtles hatch. Check out this video which highlights the entire experience, beyond just the work aspect.

Interested in helping? Check out how you can do so and what it takes to become a volunteer here!

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