SEA TURTLES


Six of the world's eight species of sea turtles nest on Costa Rica's coasts - The English, scientific, and Spanish names are :

* green turtle (Chelonia mydas), tortuga verde

* leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) baula or canal

* hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricaia), Carey

* olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), lora or carpintera

* Pacific green turtle (Chelonia agazzisiz), negra

* loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), cabezona

The Pacific green, hawksbill, and leatherback are found on both coasts, while the ridleys are only on the Pacific. The loggerhead is mainly in the Caribbean. Hawksbills, loggerheads, and leatherbacks are usually solitary nesters; the greens tome ashore to lay eggs in concentrated colonies; and the ridleys come singly, in small colonies, or in massive arribadas (large numbers of turtles). Though it's possible to see a turtle laying eggs on A beach almost any night of the year, there are times when turtles arrive in arribadas at particular sites. The most important nesting beaches are listed here.

- Tortuguero: Green turtles nest from June to September; hawksbills are also easiest to see here at this time, though they nest year-round on both coasts. Leatherbacks nest from March to May, as do loggerheads.

- Playa Grande in Las Banjos National Marine Park: Peak nesting for leatherbacks, the largest sea turtles, is from October to March.

- Ostional Wildlife Refuge: July to December are peak months for olive ridley turtles, though there are nesting turtles or hatchlings almost all year.

- Santa Rosa National Park: July to December brings arribadas of olive ridley turtles, especially on Nancite Beach. Leatherbacks and Pacific greens also nest at Nancite and Playa Naranjo.

. Barra de Matina Beach, north of Limon Leatherbacks come ashore from February to July, with peaks in April and May, green turtle nesting peaks from July to September; hawksbills also come ashore.

Green turtles are prized for their meat, especially in the Caribbean area. Hawksbills are hunted for their shells (source of tortoiseshell jewelry) along both coasts. While eating turtle meat is not a tradition on the Pacific, the eggs are prized as aphrodisiacs. Turtle protection and conservation programs range from beach patrols and public education to egg hatcheries, controlled harvesting of eggs, and setting of legal catches of turtles to sell for meat.

Practice proper turtle-watching etiquette. Stay still when a turtle comes onto the beach-movement may scare it back into the water. Light disturbs the turtles, so restrict use of flashlights; no flash cameras. Wear dark clothing.


Related Article: Marine Turtles in Costa Rica

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