SAN JOSE (AFP) — Nearly 900 endangered leatherback turtles were born at the Junquillal beach on Costa Rica’s Pacific coastline in recent months thanks to community workers that scare off poachers and protect the eggs, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature said Thursday.
The leatherbacks are giant migratory turtles that swim great distances to nesting spots in the tropics. Their main nesting area in Central America is Playa Grande, also in Costa Rica, which is a protected zone.
Junquillal is an important leatherback nesting area but it is not formally protected.
However during this nesting season Junquillal “has probably become the second most important beach for leatherback turtles to nest in Central America, due to not only the number of nests but also the success in the number of birth of young turtles,” said Gabriel Francia, who coordinates the WWF’s Pacific leatherback turtle conservation project.
Taking much of the credit are six young area residents that patrol the nearly six-kilometer (four mile) long stretch of beach each night looking for leatherbacks that have come ashore to lay eggs.
Team members will take note of the time the turtles crawl out of the ocean as well as the weather conditions and the tide. The team members then take the eggs from the beach nest after the mother turtle has returned to the ocean and move them to a secured hatchery.
The leatherback turtle (dermochelys coriacea) measures nearly two meters (6.5 feet) long and can weigh up to 650 kilos (1,430 pounds), making it the largest turtle species in the world.