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Early leatherback nests in Caletas, Costa Rica

Playa Caletas, in Costa Rica, has been protected by STRP staff since 2002

• • • PRETOMA PRESS RELEASE

Early nesting of a Leatherback Sea Turtle
on Playa Caletas, Costa Rica

(San José, Costa Rica) Sept. 8, 2003 – Typically, the Leatherback sea turtle nesting season on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica begins in late October. PRETOMA is proud to announce that a young, lone Leatherback got the season off to an early start on the night of September 2, 2003 by laying likely its first nest at Playa Caletas on the north central Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

“Although this is just a single turtle, we are excited,” said Andy Pyle, Lead Coordinator for STRPs and PRETOMA’s Turtle Protection Project in Caletas. “Because Eastern Pacific Leatherbacks are so close to extinction, every single turtle counts.”

The turtle was relatively small for a leatherback, measuring 1.44m long by 1.14m wide. It laid 30 eggs and 25 yolkless eggs. Nesting leatherbacks are often over 1.7m long and usually lay between 70-80 eggs.

STRP’s and PRETOMA’s Caletas Project began last year after it was discovered that both Olive Ridley and Leatherback sea turtles nest there. Playa Grande, approximately 80km north of Caletas and considered the most important Leatherback nesting beach of the entire Pacific Ocean, has seen its number of nesting turtles drop from 1643 in 1990 to less than 60 in 2002. Due to the plummeting numbers in Playa Grande, as well as the entire Eastern Pacific, PRETOMA views the new project at Playa Caletas as extremely important in helping restore Leatherback populations.

“Restoring Leatherback populations will be a long process with many facets,” said Randall Arauz, President of PRETOMA and Central American Director of STRP. “We have to mitigate the multiple threats Leatherbacks are faced with such as, incidental capture on the hooks of commercial longline fishing vessels, hotel development on nesting beaches and poachers who take the eggs from the nests.”

In 2001 it was estimated that only 3,000 nesting age female Leatherbacks remained in the Eastern Pacific.

“In Caletas our aim is to be part of the solution, protecting nests from both poachers and natural predators,” stated Pyle. “Last season we protected over 20 Leatherback nests. This year we have a hatchery and it is encouraging to see that we already have one nest protected. We are crossing our fingers for more.”

Thus far at Playa Caletas and neighboring Playa Manzanillo, PRETOMA project participants have seen 97 Olive Ridley sea turtles, one Hawksbill and one Leatherback. In their hatchery they have 53 Olive Ridley nests, one Hawksbill nest and now one Leatherback nest!

For a link to PRETOMA’s 2002 Caletas Report (including photos)
www.tortugamarina.org/downloads/CaletasREPORT2002.pdf

For photos of Caletas Leatherbacks

http://www.tortugamarina.org/downloads/nohindflippers.jpg
December 15, 2000

http://www.tortugamarina.org/downloads/3leggedleatherback.jpg
December 18, 2002.

For more information, visit PRETOMA’s URL: http://www.tortugamarina.org.

Photo/Julias Travels