The illegal and unsustainable poaching (stealing) of sea turtle eggs from their buried nests is one of the gravest threats that these magnificent creatures face. An example of the damage caused by poaching can be seen with the population of leatherbacks in Malaysia, which dropped from 2,000 nesting females to 20 in only a generation. While poaching of eggs is illegal, poor enforcement and economic conditions allow this destructive activity to occur.
Poaching on any Central American beach (and perhaps the world) is close to
100% if not protected. Studies have estimated various levels of poaching at different Costa Rica beaches, including 95% in the Guanacaste region, 98% in Esterillos, Costa Rica, and a 100% poaching rate in Punta Banco in 1995. In other countries, such as Honduras, where there is some record, indicates poaching at similar levels.
The success of conservation beach-patrols in Costa Rica is beginning to make significant reductions in the poaching of sea turtle eggs from beaches. Education of local residents about the conservation needs, pressure from conservation beach patrolers to stop, and the conversion of many poachers into conservation workers through financial and cultural incentives are finding success.
Around Central America, the formation and growth of sea turtle beach patrol groups can reduce the ongoing problem of illegal poaching of sea turtle eggs. The Sea Turtle Restoration Project continues to provide direct support to our partner organization in Costa Rica, Programa Restauracion de Tortugas Marinas (PRETOMA) and their many successful beach patrol projects throughout Costa Rica. Working together with Central American coastal communities and fishermen, we can make a difference for imperiled sea turtle populations.