January 27, 2014

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This weekend our expedition team, including Dr. Sylvia Earle, Dr. Erick Ross, Dr. George Schillinger and Kip Evans visited the turtles at the Leatherback Trust hatchery in Costa Rica.

The hatchery serves to give leatherbacks a better chance at overall survival. It begins by protecting the iconic creature’s eggs from predators, after which on-site biologists monitor the nests, checking nest temperatures which determine the sex of the turtles. When the turtles have matured, they are released to begin their migration offshore to the Central American Dome. 

Lighthawk Flyover Searching for Leatherbacks. Photo: Kip Evans

Lighthawk Flyover Searching for Leatherbacks. Photo: Kip Evans

Successful protection of 99% of the nests started in 1993 and the hatchery started to operate in 1998-99. Although at present, population numbers are decreasing, we can expect to see numbers of leatherbacks increasing in the next few years. The real question is whether there are enough adult leatherbacks left to keep the population healthy until the hatchlings produced due to beach protection over the last 10 years can reach adulthood and rebuild the population.

On Sunday morning, Dr. Earle, Dr. Ross and Kip Evans flew with Lighthawk to spot for nesting turtles on the beach.

The expedition team also got a visit from reporter Michelle Soto and her staff from La Nación News Paper. They are investigating the migration routes of leatherback turtles and also details of this iconic species’ relationship to the Central American Dome.

By Shirley Malespin, Communications Manager, Mar Viva and Deb Castellana, Mission Blue 

Feature Photo: Dr. James Spotila presented   his recent book, “Saving Sea Turtles” to Dr. Earle. Also pictured, George  SDr. James Spotila gave to Dr. George Schillinger. Photo: Kip Evans

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