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Sea turtle conservation project (Osa Peninsula)

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Project Summary

Do you like sea animals, namely the sea turtle? Would you enjoy helping nurse them back to health and making sure they stay healthy in their natural habitat? If so, you should join RCDP's sea turtle conservation project! Sea turtles have made an existence for some 200,000,000 years now. Over these years there have been over 100 species of marine turtles. Today we have seven species worldwide. Sea turtles spend most of their life in the water, making them completely adapted to the sea. The front limbs act as flippers with the back limbs acting like paddles.

The gender of the hatched turtles depends on the temperature of the nest while growing. The perfect temperature of the eggs in a nest should be at 29.5 degrees Celsius (85.1 degrees Fahrenheit). Before the eggs even hatch, they face many dangers. They can fail to hatch due to heavy rain or seawater flooding the nest. High tides can wash away whole nests or the nests can be picked at by different animals who are hunting it for food.

The natural habitat of turtles in Costa Rica is in danger. RCDP needs your help to protect it, as urban sprawl and farming is taking over land that used to be claimed by the turtles. The species are now threatened. Conservation efforts are focusing on strengthening the turtle population. They provide support and protect them, encourage their breeding efforts, conduct research on their health and migration pattern, and record their behavior.

Your activities as a volunteer

Sea turtles have not been studied enough to have sufficient research on them and their habitat. Though this is partially due to the fact that sea turtles only spend 1% of their life on nesting beaches, it is also because research hasn't been properly conducted on this fascinating species. Because of this, there is a need to study the habitats of sea turtles in order to understand how they live and what they are exposed to, as to keep them healthy and safe in a natural environment. The sea turtle conservation project aims to do just that, and with your help, we can keep the turtles living long and prosperous lives by creating self-sustainability. We help nurse sick sea turtles back to health and study the habits and lifestyles of the sea turtles to form conclusions about what we can do to help make them as comfortable as possible in their natural environment.

A healthy environment is highly important for turtles, meaning there are lots of tasks a volunteer can do besides the boat trips. Beach cleanings can help these turtles remain safe and healthy as the beach is constantly being filled with debris, wood, and garbage brought by nearby rivers. There is also a mangrove reforestation program that helps to improve the conditions of the water quality, recovering the local natural ecosystems of the Golfo Dulce. Volunteers will assist in this endeavor by collecting and planting seeds in a nursery, and then transfer them to their natural habitat when they are strong enough.

The project aims to protect the nests from human poachers as well. Volunteers will work with local community associations to implement turtle management strategies that are being imposed by Costa Rica's Environment Ministry. They will learn about the ecology and conservation of sea turtles while experiencing what life is like for a field worker. They will commit to an active role in cleaning the beach, helping collect data, and rehabilitate the sick and injured turtles.

This project is located in Osa Peninsula, close to Corcovado National Park, one of the few remaining sizeable areas of lowland rainforest in the world. Volunteers will not only be helping the sea turtles but also get to experience this beautiful part of Costa Rica!

Project skills required

Volunteers will be assisting the project staff with the sea turtles after being caught and untangled from the net. They will help with duties such as:

  • Taking blood samples to analyze the physical condition of the sea turtle
  • Taking tissue samples to examine DNA to reconstruct the lineage of females
  • Noticing differences between the nesting and feeding periods in the females
  • Taking mucus samples from the eyes and nose to scan for parasites
  • Obtain data about the biometry of the turtle, tagging them before being released again
  • Clean and feed sea turtles

Volunteers will share a cabin with up to ten other people, and enjoy three local meals a day. Volunteers must be at least 18 or have a permission slip from your parents indicating you have been allowed to work in the project. You must also have a basic knowledge of the Spanish language.

Project location

This project is located north of Puerto Jimenez on the Peninsula de Osa in Playa Blanca. This is in the southern pacific province of Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Playa Blanca has a tropical climate. It is very hot and has almost 100% humidity with frequent rains. In your spare time, you can visit all that Playa Blanca has to offer including Corcovada National Park, Drake Bay, and Golfito.

Project essentials

Backpacks are highly recommended for this project, as big suitcases do not come in handy. We also recommend bringing cash, your ID card, a valid passport, health insurance, your driver's license, and credit cards. These are all important documents that could be useful for you at various points of your trip. As far as packing, we suggest you pack for hot weather and dirty conditions. This includes lightweight clothes that can dry fast as you will be getting dirty and wet. Don't forget a water bottle to stay hydrated and some sunscreen, as you will be outside a lot throughout the day!

On-going volunteer programs in Costa Rica