Saturday, May 21, 2011

Few and far between

With a large Leatherback season recorded the last couple of years it has been an expected slow start to the Leatherback season this year, and I find it ironic that I am writing this blog, in week 6, and am still the only person in Jalova at the moment yet to see a live turtle!

Apart from the new 5 week volunteers that only arrived on Friday, and are still carrying out their training, I am the only one on base that the turtles have eluded. However, I still have hopes of seeing a turtle; after all, they are much more common than the other weird and wonderful sightings we have had so far this phase (see previous blog stories).

To date, we have been lucky enough to work 10 of a total of 17 leatherback individuals recorded (in absence of real turtles these last days, check out the sand turtle for our training session), and keep a daily check on the condition of their nests. Have they been poached, predated, eroded, washed, hatched or are they still ok (natural)?

Starting at first light, we carry out our 8 mile round trip, Nest Check Surveys. We have been able to determine the presence of Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), Green (Chelonia mydas) and Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) turtles on our surveyed stretch of Jalova beach. At the moment we can tell from these walks that only 1 of our marked nests is poached, not a bad record for the number that we have. Great success!

Night Turtle Patrol Walks are carried out every evening during turtle season, which started on the 1st of March for this Leatherback season. We start at 10pm and patrol the Jalova end of the beach of Tortuguero National Park. There is a lot of walking involved in the night walks (especially at the moment with no turtles), starting at mile 18 we make our way to mile 15 and back again, and continue to carry this out unless a turtle is seen, then we wait until we can work it to collect the data for the survey. The walks generally finish around 3am in the morning.

All this information and data that we are collecting on the marine turtles at Jalova adds to the STC’s (Sea Turtle Conservancy) mission to monitor the populations of the marine turtles that nest on Tortuguero beaches, while at the same time furthering the information they have on the great unknowns of the turtle world, including renesting information on the turtles that nest all along the Tortuguero National Park stretch of beach.

Hannah Cooke