Pura Patrolling

By Siobhan Herr

We arrived at Playa Nombre de Jesus excited and antsy after our long travel day. With the ocean in mind, we quickly put on our bathing suits to swim in the turquoise water. Hanna, Maddie, Annie, and Paige found and explored a cave, while myself, Kaitlin, Juliette, and Talia worked on evening out some farmer’s tan lines. Each night we assisted the Kuemar staff in patrolling two beaches, searching for sea turtles.

Patrols occurred in two shifts: 8-11 PM and 11PM-2AM. During a shift, we walked the beach looking for turtle tracks. If we located a turtle, the next step was to sit nearby and wait for the nest to be built — a process that typically takes at least 30 minutes. Turtles choose a spot to lay eggs far from the water to protect their nest from the tide. Once the turtle is prepared to lay eggs, we prepared to catch the eggs. It is important to take, relocate, and bury turtle eggs to protect them from being taken by poachers in the area. Both Grace and Juliette had the opportunity to catch the eggs from a turtle during the process. Following the egg laying, measurements of the turtle and her nest were taken before she returned to the ocean.

We saw green turtles during our time on the beach, which are among seven species of sea turtles. The average age for a turtle to lay eggs is between 15-25 years. Once a turtle starts laying eggs, she lays eggs every 14 days for 3 cycles, then returns to the ocean for the next 2-3 years before beginning this cycle again. This means that a turtle will lay approximately 1200 eggs in her lifetime. We also learned that only 1 in every 1000 turtle eggs laid will grow and survive to be an adult. We had been a bit nervous about seeing turtles, because it’s low season, but we were not disappointed.

Our days were not only spent swimming, but also working on some more turtle projects. We assisted in re-painting some of the markers on the beach, which are crucial to locating nests. Hanna, Chloe, and Annie painted the black backgrounds, Maddie and I did the yellow markings, and Kaitlin took on the role of painting a few of Elliot’s toenails. Among the many activities was an excavation of turtle nests that had already gone through the 60-day incubation period. Using previously recorded measurements, we located the eggs and counted the shells to determine the success rate of each nest.

During the week, we also listened to our three PSU presentations, napped in sandy beds, and made some midnight pancakes. As our time in Costa Rica came to a close, we said goodbye and headed to the airport. This morning we managed to pack up, drive to the airport, and deplete all the free chocolate samples in the gift shop- all before 5 AM! We’re looking forward to soaking up every last drop in our remaining bunch of days in Roatan.

Hasta pronto!!

Swimming in the clear warm water at Playa Real.

Annie and Juliette excavate and examine turtle eggs to see if they’ve all hatched!

Counting and checking turtle eggs.

Paige locating a turtle nest for excavation.

Siobhan enjoying the beach.

Talia, Elliot, and Paige working on turtle nest excavation.

Julian, Hannah, and Hanna working on turtle nest excavation.

Julian treating the group to some surprise midnight pancakes.