Sea Turtle Conservation volunteer program: COTORCO

Come stay at Finca Exotica and volunteer on our community sea turtle project at the same time!

Introduction

Sea turtles have played a vital role in preserving the health of the planet´s oceans for more than 100 million years. They maintain productive coral reef ecosystems and transport essential nutrients from the oceans to beaches and coastal dunes. However, all species of sea turtles are now threatened and listed as Endangered or Critically endangered by the IUCN red list. As sea turtle populations decline, so does their ability to fulfill crucial functions in ocean ecosystems.
Sea turtles on Carate beach
This richly bio-diverse area is a vital nesting habitat for four of the world´s seven species of sea turtle: olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), pacific green or black (Chelonia mydas agassizii), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata).

Who is COTORCO?
COTORCO (Committee for the Conservation of the Sea Turtles of Corcovado) is an Osa peninsula-based group of people with the shared interest in protecting endangered sea turtles. Our long term goal is to increase the number of sea turtles that nest on the Osa Peninsula. At the same time, we want to reduce predation and poaching through an efficient and consistent education program in the community. Also, we want to involve the local community in the participation of conservation and environmental protection of sea turtles.

What are the main sea turtle threats here?
There are many reasons why the numbers of turtles have decreased here. Amongst other reasons, over-fishing in the sea leads to the capture of many sea turtles. In addition, when a female turtle manages to get past the fishing boats and find a suitable beach, the eggs are often collected and sold in bars and restaurants in the surrounding towns, or dogs dig the nests up and eat the eggs. Poaching is a major problem on this part of the coast and so for that reason we also work very closely with MINAE.

Come and volunteer!
Our volunteers form an integral part of this program- quite simply our project couldn’t run without the help of volunteers! We need help to protect the sea turtle nesting area to increase the number of hatchlings which survive. Without this help, the majority of the eggs and hatchlings would fall prey to poachers and other predators. Upon arrival, our volunteers receive training by an experienced staff member. They are given the opportunity to learn about the biology of our visiting sea turtles from our onsite sea turtle biologist, and then receive training of the work that they will be doing. Our volunteers work with experienced staff members who are able to show volunteers the proper scientific methods for the work with sea turtles that is carried out. We are always open to fresh ideas from people willing to implement them!

Please email us if you are interested: fincaexotica@gmail.com

Other ways to help:
If you cannot be volunteer on our sea turtle project, there are still many other ways that you can help! Everyone in their own way can contribute to saving sea turtles in Costa Rica and worldwide by doing or not doing the following:
• Tell your friends and family about what you have learned about sea turtles and motivate them to help saving these animals.
• Never buy turtle products. Don’t eat turtle eggs and meat.
• Only eat fish that is caught sustainably NOT by longlines, trawls and gillnets. Sea turtles, dolphins and other marine life die and are discarded as ‘bycatch’ through these fishing practices.
• Lobby your government asking them to take more pro-active action in protecting sea turtles, including the installation of Turtle Exclusion Devices (TEDs) on commercial fishing nets.
• Raise money for conservation projects such as ours! We cannot function without the generous support of donations. All help is greatly appreciated and you can be assured that each coin you give will go towards helping our favorite shelled friends. Funding is absolutely vital to ensure the running of our project. Without it our community activities and hatchery just quite simply couldn’t exist.