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Thursday, 15 November 2007

Sea Turtle Gynecology: Volunteering with Pretoma in Costa Rica - Page 2

Written by Noel Dunn
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Spreading a final handful of maggots in the sand, I sit back to survey the remnants of a nest. In front of me there are two worm-filled corpses, a pile of 11 eggs that remain unopened and a large pile of broken shells. I walk over to the shade and pick up four baby sea turtles that are barely alive. 114 of their siblings hatched last night and these guys couldn't make it out of the nest.

turtlesWe place all of the hatchlings in a bucket and walk two kilometers down the beach to release them next to the place their mother initially built her nest. We return to camp in time for sunset. There are six of us at camp and all of us sit in a row facing the ocean, picking insects out of our coffee and share a hand-rolled banana-leaf cigarette to keep the mosquitoes at bay. We may not know each other’s last names but we have found out many of the little known tidbits about each other that normally only come with years of dating someone. The sun successfully sets and the tide is on its way out. Our workday has just begun. It’s muggy and warm but everyone changes into long pants and long-sleeved shirts for protection against sand fleas.

beachOur beach, though beautiful, is full of rocks and has a forceful current, which means it isn’t good for swimming, fishing, or surfing. It is also a two-hour walk from the closest town and by day the five kilometers often feel like our own secluded beach but at night it’s a different story.

Tonight, I’m headed south with my field coordinator, Kenny. Like me, he just graduated from college and is without a home. He has long legs and sets a fast pace. As we race across the sand, we bullshit about how all of us should join match.com – if only because we actually take long walks (3-6 hours) on the beach nightly. As we speak, the waxing crescent moon moves behind a fierce grey cloud and the black sand beach looks like nothing more than a silhouette. Somehow we can still easily make out the turtle tracks less than 50 meters in front of us. Our steps become faster and lighter as we approach.

turtleA heavily breathing sea turtle is nesting, her back flippers pulse before each egg falls into the sand. Less than a meter away four people are discussing the fate of her eggs. Legally, the entire beach is protected and all sea turtle nests are property of our local conservation group. Unofficially there is no enforcement and we compete with poachers looking for turtles every night using the popular childhood rule ¨finder’s keepers¨ as guidelines.

I’m listening quietly as my coworker tries to persuade the hueveros or poachers to give us the nest even though they found it first. The two men are incredibly nice and even sound sincere as they sympathize with our cause.

¨The thing is, ¨ they say, ¨we only want one nest.¨

(Page 2 of 3)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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