According to National Geographic, leatherback turtles have existed for 100 million years. Today, one in a thousand is said to make it to adulthood. If it weren’t for turtles, ocean acidity would skyrocket and we would all be swimming with jellyfish.
There is a long list of factors influencing the demise of sea turtle populations. Primarily sea turtles are some of the slowest animals to adapt to human induced climate change due to rising sea levels, poaching and light and plastic pollution.
The sex of turtle hatchlings is heavily influenced by temperature. Therefore global warming is causing an uneven ratio of males to females, putting their reproduction rate in further decline.
Although sea turtles are protected by law in Costa Rica, enforcement is poor and locals take eggs which are believed to be an aphrodisiac, and sell them on the black market. Meanwhile, the egg trade has been linked to drug trafficking and organized crime. Conservationists working in Limón say they are often threatened for trying to protect turtle eggs. Jairo Mora was one such individual.
Jairo Mora Sandoval (March 22, 1987 – May 31, 2013) was a Costa Rican environmentalist who was murdered while attempting to protect leatherback turtle nests. Just before midnight on May 30, 2013, Mora and four female volunteers were abducted by a group of masked men. The women eventually escaped and informed the police.
Adult Leatherback Female, Moín Beach, 2014
Jairo's family (in order from left to right, myself, Helen Mora, Fernanda Sandoval, Ericka Mora holding Nik and Avi Ghadish)
Mora’s bound and beaten body was found on the beach the next morning. An autopsy determined he died by asphyxiation after suffering a blow to the head. (Source: Wikipedia)
I have been engaging in grassroots environmentalism in Costa Rica ever since the incident involving the death of Jairo Mora in 2013 and have since sought to revive efforts to protect these turtles. Little did I know just how controversial an endeavour this would be.
Between April and July this year I recorded data every night in Gandoca, noting the severe decline in nesting turtles. Meanwhile I was able to salvage six nests. Gandoca is witnessing a record low in turtle activity however the success rate in previous years has been zero.
Take a look at my video diary from this season.