Caribbean Miracle: Stolen Turtles Survive

December 18, 2009

Precisely 2,000 green turtles hatched this week on the Caribbean beach of Mondonguillo de Matina, two-and-a-half months after Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) confiscated the turtle eggs from a home in the Caribbean port town of Limón.

On Sept. 30, OIJ officials seized 11 sacks containing 10,297 green turtle eggs from a private property near the port of Moín. Many of the eggs were damaged, with mold and fungus, and biologists were doubtful that any of them could be salvaged.

The Costa Rican Coast Guard took the eggs to a nearby beach refuge where scientists built artificial nests to nurture the eggs in hopes that at least one baby turtle would hatch.

Juan Carlos Vargas, a Coast Guard biologist, called the thousands of hatchings this week “a miracle.”

“The majority of these eggs were black, infected and had bacteria and mushrooms growing on them,” Vargas said. “The life probability was 95 percent nil.”

Collecting turtle eggs, a longtime tradition in the area, is forbidden by Costa Rican law, with one exception: harvesting eggs under close supervision is allowed at Playa Ostional in the northwest province of Guanacaste.

The Law for the Protection, Conservation and Recuperation of the Marine Turtle Population (Law 8325), established in 2002 and designed to help protect declining sea turtle numbers, mandates three years of prison for anyone who “kills, hunts, captures, decapitates, or disturbs marine turtles.”

The same law also imposes jail time of from three months to two years for “those who detain marine turtles with the intention of marketing or commercializing products made from marine turtles.”

Police arrested the Limón property owner and charged him with violating Law 8325.

Along the Caribbean coast, turtle meat has traditionally been used as an ingredient in traditional dishes, and turtle shells are often carved into jewelry. The turtle protection law has seeded egg poaching as a vocation and sprouted a black market on which turtle meat can be sold for as much as ¢5,000 ($8.92) per pound.

But the 2,000 turtles hatched this week will be spared the butcher’s knife. Biologists will nurse the babies to health and return the animals to the sea.

–Mike McDonald

You may be interested

Strong winds cause three deaths in Costa Rica, one in El Salvador
Weather
1134 views
Weather
1134 views

Strong winds cause three deaths in Costa Rica, one in El Salvador

AFP - December 10, 2017

Three people have died in Costa Rica, includiing two Swiss tourists, and one in El Salvador as a result of…

6 camouflaged Costa Rican creatures you probably haven’t seen
Environment and Wildlife
2025 views
Environment and Wildlife
2025 views

6 camouflaged Costa Rican creatures you probably haven’t seen

Lindsay Fendt - December 9, 2017

The jungle can be a scary place, and even for some of the fiercest of Costa Rica’s creatures, sometimes the…

National Geographic-Lindblad Expeditions ship makes first visit to Osa Peninsula
Cruises
1929 views
Cruises
1929 views

National Geographic-Lindblad Expeditions ship makes first visit to Osa Peninsula

The Tico Times - December 8, 2017

National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions touched down for the first time on Costa Rica's renowned Osa Peninsula this week for…