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STRP Offers Costa Rican Volunteer Opportunities

Take a vacation and help save sea turtles Since 1996, PRETOMA (Sea Turtle Restoration Project of Costa Rica) has with support from STRP conducted a sea turtle protection project in Punta Banco, Costa Rica. Punta Banco is a small village of 200 people on the south Pacific coast of Costa Rica situated between rainforest jungle and an Olive Ridley sea turtle nesting beach. Each year the project lasts from July 15 through December 20 during the nesting season. The project is run by two biologist coordinators and two locals who know the beaches and nesting behavior of the turtles. Participants from around the world come to Punta Banco to assist in the project, patrolling the beach at night for nesting turtles, tagging and measuring the turtles, protecting the turtle eggs in hatcheries and releasing baby turtles into the sea when they hatch. “Punta Banco for me was a mix of protecting and learning about endangered sea turtles, meeting people from other countries, getting to know the townspeople and the culture and living in a remote beautiful spot,” reports Noah Anderson, a participant in the project in 2001. The project was started at the behest of town leaders in 1996. The objective of the project is to help restore sea turtle populations by protecting the eggs of nesting turtles. The nests are at risk from predators such as, dogs, birds and crabs. In addition, many locals in the surrounding area have for years used the eggs to supplement their diets. “Due to the presence of the project, human use of eggs has been reduced significantly in Punta Banco and nests in the hatcheries are protected from natural predators,” states Randall Arauz, Director of PRETOMA. Each year participants in the project protect between 200-300 nests in hatcheries and release the resulting 12,000 or so hatchlings into the sea. Due to a mix of natural predators, pollution and accidental capture by commercial fishing vessels it is estimated that only 1-3% of hatchlings reach adulthood. “This is my first year as a coordinator in Punta Banco,” says Peruvian biologist Ingrid Yañez. “The volunteers are great fun, and the town is so hospitable, I can see why a turtle would want to nest here.” PRETOMA is a Costa Rican non-profit, NGO that collaborates with STRP in the protection and restoration of sea turtles, other endangered marine species and marine habitats.