Volunteers at our Pacuare Sea Turtle Research and Conservation project will assist staff of the project in their daily activities which include data collection, protection of the sea turtle eggs, hatchery shifts, and beach cleanup. Volunteers will help with the daily camp duties and assisting in the kitchen.
Located near the mouth of the Pacuare river on the Caribbean coast, a one hour and a half ride from the nearest road this project works with the Leatherback Sea Turtle. There are also Green Sea Turtles and some Hawksbill Sea Turtles coming to the beach to nest. Like all sea turtles species, they are listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the Leatherback and the Green Sea Turtle are ranked as “Endangered” and the Hawksbill Sea Turtle as “Critically Endangered”, which means if we don’t take serious measures, it is very likely that they will become extinct. Therefore every helping hand available is welcome in Pacuare!
Each season the project recruits national and international volunteers as part of the conservation project.The project also welcomes school classes and university groups to work as part of the environmental education program.
A rescue center for sea turtles has been built at the project site . We not only protect the nesting females and their babies, but also help injured turtles, as well as confiscated sea turtles brought to us by the police to regain their strength for a life in the ocean.
The main threats for the sea turtles at the beach are human poachers and beach erosion. Through the close involvement with the remote village of the area, this sea turtle conservation project provides not only a unique opportunity for volunteers to experience a true community-based Costa Rican conservation project, but also offers a legal and sustainable revenue to the community. The data taken from nesting females by monitoring and tagging them improves our understanding of their nesting behavior and migration routes which helps coordinate our worldwide conservation efforts.
- Providing a beach where critically endangered sea turtles can nest unharmed
- Saving sea turtle eggs from poachers and making sure that they are being bred out of the reach of any predator or danger
- Monitoring and tagging the nesting Sea Turtles
- Develop activities against the poaching of eggs
- Create revenue to the local communities to offer an alternative to poaching
- Propose an alternative lifestyle to community members and volunteers alike to reduce their impact on sea turtles and critical habitats.
The main work of the volunteers at our Pacuare Sea turtle Project is assisting the staff of the
project with the data collection and egg protection of the sea turtles. It
involves night patrols and hatchery shifts as well as daytime work such as beach cleanup, or small projects including initial construction of the hatcheries.
Volunteers have to help with the daily camp duties and assisting in the kitchen.
Our night patrols are made up of a group of volunteers led by an experienced patrol
leader. Volunteers will walk one of the three sectors of the 11km long beach searching for
nesting females. An average night patrol will take 4 hours but can last longer depending on the number of sea turtle encounters.
When a turtle is encountered on a night patrol, patrolling teams work directly with it, taking carapace (shell) and nest dimension measurements, collecting eggs, tagging the flippers or collect DNA samples. The collected eggs will be relocated on the beach or taken to the hatchery where the volunteers on shift will build a new nest (according to measurements that were taken) and relocating the eggs. The number of eggs, nest location and turtle identification information (tag number) are then recorded by the hatchery attendant for further data analysis for example hatchling survival rate. The project avoids every form of confrontation with egg poachers. If a shift encounters poachers they won´t do anything. The unwritten rule in this community is that the person(s) who arrive first are the “owners” of the eggs.
The tasks in the hatchery will be taking care of the relocated nests; keeping out predators and
tourists; giving information to tourists; taking nest temperatures and measurements; and releasing newborn hatchlings.
During hatching seasons, all nests in the hatcheries must be checked every 10 minutes during the day and every 15 minutes during the night. Hatchlings must be counted and released in the appropriate location and observed until they reach the sea.
The beach is constantly being filled with wood debris brought by nearby rivers, reducing the nesting area available for turtles, as well as presenting risks for the turtles and the hatchlings (e.g. acting as barriers on the beach).
Project tasks may sometimes seem repetitive but your efforts will make a huge difference. Be prepared to spend time on activities where you do not see immediate progress. Enjoy the project locations, your fellow team members and the fact you are helping to make a difference in Costa Rican and worldwide sea turtle conservancy.
Volunteers at this project will stay in one of the several shared-space volunteer cabins. Some cabins have private bathrooms, others with shared bathrooms. Cabins are usually divided by sex, however families and groups can share the same cabin, depending on availability.