Tis the Sea Turtle Season with Spotting of First Nesting Green Sea Turtle and Newborn Olive Ridleys at Leatherback Hatchery in Naranjo Beach, Costa Rica

By December 15, 2022News Releases

For Immediate Release: December 15, 2022

Contacts: Scott Artis, Turtle Island Restoration Network, (925) 550-9208, sartis@seaturtles.org

Tis the Sea Turtle Season with Spotting of First Nesting Green Sea Turtle and Newborn Olive Ridleys at Leatherback Hatchery in Naranjo Beach, Costa Rica

Olema, Calif.—Under cover of night, Turtle Island Restoration Network’s Naranjo Beach Leatherback Hatchery project biologist Luis Fonseca Lopez spotted the first nesting green sea turtle of the season. Earlier that day, newly hatched olive ridley sea turtles emerged from their sand-covered nests and successfully started their long and treacherous ocean journey to maturity. Turtle Island Restoration Network and Guanacaste Dry Forest Conservation Fund are working together to protect a secondary leatherback nesting beach at Playa Naranjo, Costa Rica – targeting critically endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtles.

A species most at-risk from extinction, researchers estimate that 90% of the nesting Pacific leatherback population has declined over the last three generations. Despite being located within the limits of a national park that grants protection against poachers, other land-based threats have hindered recovery efforts at this site. These land-based threats include predation on nesting females from jaguars and high temperatures affecting the incubation of eggs at Playa Naranjo. The sex of a sea turtle is determined by the temperature at which the egg is incubated, with higher temperatures producing more females. To increase the hatching rate, eggs at Playa Naranjo are relocated by the project biologist to a hatchery that provides shade and reduces the temperature of the sand.

“The simultaneous nesting and hatching of these federally threatened sea turtles is a significant year-end, holiday conservation gift to our Naranjo Beach Leatherback hatchery program,” said Scott Artis, Managing Director of Turtle Island Restoration Network. “We already saw success earlier in the year as critically endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtles that had been relocated to our hatchery made their way to the Pacific Ocean.”

Since 2020, Turtle Island Restoration Network provides support to the Leatherback Hatchery project at Playa Naranjo, and in 2021 captured rare footage showcasing the relationship between two of Costa Rica’s at-risk species: highly endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtles and near-threatened jaguars. The video showed three different jaguars, two females and one male, feast on a female Pacific leatherback sea turtle that was killed by a jaguar as she attempted to nest. Playa Naranjo is located in Santa Rosa National Park, Guanacaste. This remote paradisiacal beach, famous among surfers, is within a five-hour drive from San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica and can only be accessed by 4×4 vehicles.

“This is a race against time and we need to make every possible effort to save Pacific leatherbacks before they completely disappear,” said Artis. “We are delighted that our Playa Naranjo efforts are not only benefiting leatherbacks but threatened green and olive ridley sea turtles as well. It’s a sea turtle conservation gift that keeps on giving all year round and we are eagerly awaiting our first nesting leatherback during the November through February season.”

Photos and Video Media Kit: Credit attributed to Luis Fonseca Lopez.


Turtle Island Restoration Network is a global ocean conservation nonprofit with offices in California and Texas, whose mission is to inspire and mobilize people around the world to protect marine biodiversity and the oceans that sustain all life on Earth.