Tourists Disrupt Sea Turtle Nestings In Costa Rica

September 17, 2015

Most of us in the reptile community know that sea turtles are endangered in the United States and there are laws that are enforced that keep folks from touching, blocking or otherwise harassing these magnificent reptiles. However, in Costa Rica, laws might not be enforced as thousands of olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) arriving on beaches in the country’s Ostional Wildlife Refuge were greeted by hundreds of touchy feely tourists who came to witness the phenomenon known as Arribada, or arrival at sea. 

The Costa Rican government was upset by the behavior of some of these so-called eco-tourists, as there were reports that turtle nests were destroyed, children and some adults sat on the turtles to get selfies and others used flashes on their cameras to snap photographs. There were reports that hundreds of turtles returned to the ocean, unable or unwilling to deposit their eggs in nests in the sand. 

The administrator of the refuge, Carlos Hernandez, was reported to have said he has never seen a crowd of people so large descending on the beach to observe the nesting of these turtles. Hernandez told the Tico Times that some of the tourists entered the beach by traversing unauthorized access points and the two park rangers were unable to control the crowd that congregated on the nesting beach.  

The Ostional Wildlife Refuge was established in 1982 to protect sea turtles and is the only place in the world where it is legal to harvest and sell sea turtle eggs. The practice, which was put in place with input from scientists in the 1980s enables locals to harvest the first wave of turtle eggs which the government says are often destroyed by the second and third wave of turtles that nest on the beach. 

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