SEA TURTLE MONITORING AND CONSERVATION PROGRAM IN GANDOCA-MANZANILLO
The Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge (REGAMA) is located in the very South of the Caribbean coast in Costa Rica and is known for its rich biodiversity and pristine habitats. REGAMA still has one of the last patches of primary rainforest and a large area of mangroves. It also harbours three resident sea turtle species that are using REGAMA as feeding and nesting site, hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata), leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea), and green turtles (Chelonia mydas). The nesting habitat within REGAMA encompasses 9.8 km of beach adjacent to the community of Gandoca and several smaller playitas between Gandoca and Manzanillo. REGAMA also harbours coral reefs and seagrass beds, which are popular feeding sites for hawksbills and greens of different life stages.
REGAMA harbours the two small communities of Gandoca and Manzanillo.
The community of Gandoca is economically mainly dependent on the nearby banana plantations and subsistence farming, whereas Manzanillo is a small artisanal fishing community that in recent years has become a popular tourist destination. However, some members of both communities are still poaching eggs and turtles to eat and sell, and turtles are killed accidentally in fishing gear.
Historically, the small community of Gandoca is known for a successful community-based sea turtle conservation project. From 1985 until 2011 a project that was monitoring sea turtle nesting activities was led by the Costa Rican Asociación ANAI (later WIDECAST Costa Rica). However, due to a lack of funding and internal conflicts, the project was suspended and there had been no active monitoring of sea turtle activity in REGAMA for several years.
In 2020, COASTS reinstated a formal monitoring and conservation program for sea turtles nesting at beaches in the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge.
SATELLITE TRACKING OF HAWKSBILL TURTLES IN THE CARIBBEAN
To study the in-water movements of our hawksbill populations nesting and feeding on the Caribbean coast, we attach satellite transmitters to a subset of individuals (nesting females and turtles captured in-water) to follow their travels during the nesting season, as well as their post-nesting migrations to their feeding grounds.
RESEARCH AND CONSERVATION EFFORTS IN OSTIONAL
To study the migrations and in-water movements of the olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) population nesting in Ostional, Guanacaste, we attach satellite transmitters to a subset of nesting females and male turtles captured in-water to follow their travels during the nesting season, as well as their post-nesting migrations to their feeding grounds. We are further interested in conducting a saturated tagging and intense recapture project to answer some basic and important questions about the nesting phenology of olive ridley turtles that remain unanswered.
Additionally, we support the local monitoring and conservation efforts of Pacific green turtles (Chelonia mydas agassizii) and the critically endangered Eastern Pacific leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), including the support of a beach hatchery that helps to raise the hatching success of nests.
ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION & CAPACITY BUILDING
We run an independent environmental education and outreach program in the Southern Caribbean of Costa Rica. The program involves regular visits to local schools to increase awareness about the conservation status of sea turtles, the reasons why they are threatened, what everyone can do to help and why we shouldn't eat sea turtle eggs and meat. We also regularly organize beach clean-ups to educate Costa Ricans about the detrimental effects of plastic pollution on marine wildlife and have organized various workshops on diverse topics that affect sea turtles.