Fabulous news has been received from Costa Rican Sea Turtles Principal Investigator Dr. Frank Paladino.
You may have heard of the plight of the Las Baulas National Marine Park in Costa Rica (originally made a national marine park thanks to the research findings of this Earthwatch project), which was almost certain to be downgraded to a refuge. This downgraded status would allow development right on the waterfront, a devastating move for the delicate beach ecosystem and the turtles that nest there every year.
On the 1st May 2010 the park and the turtles won an important victory when the Costa Rican congress chose to not downgrade Las Baulas National Marine Park to a refuge! Congratulations are due to the dedicated PIs and the field staff who have worked so hard to spread the news about the downgrade issue, and their tireless efforts in their continuing Earthwatch-supported turtle nesting research, which surely had a part in this reversal.
Protection of turtles and their nests is the responsibility of National Park guards. Research and conservation efforts are spearheaded by Earthwatch Principal Investigator Dr. Frank V. Paladino from the Department of Biology, Indiana-Purdue University, Fort Wayne and his colleagues and Earthwatch volunteers.
The research runs from late September to March each year. Faculty, students, and volunteers conduct scientific investigations of the turtles and their eggs and help in local conservation efforts and protection.
The National Park has been chronically understaffed so that the beaches are sometimes left unprotected during the day. Because of an active education campaign, local residents no longer steal (poach) eggs from the beach. They now protect the beach and the Park. Development is now stopped behind the beach but increasing lights from new houses from Tamarindo disorient hatchlings and adults.
Although Las Baulas is remote from even the major population centers of Costa Rica, it suffers from the same pressures as found on sea turtle beaches in Florida, Greece, and elsewhere around the world.
Earthwatch teams, concerned local residents, guides, local business leaders, scientists and Park rangers continue to work to improve the protection provided by the Park and the leatherback turtles.
So why don’t you pat yourself on the back, as part of the Earthwatch family, for your part in leatherback turtle history.