Scenes like the ones reported by the Tico Times recently have once again brought turtle nesting safety to the forefront of Costa Rica’s news. Although the country has very strict regulations regarding the harvesting of eggs (only by locals and only for a brief period of time) and admiring the nesting process (tourists are only allowed on the beach with a local guide), it’s quite obvious that transgressions are oftentimes made.
The government may lack the manpower needed to patrol beaches 24/7, but the real question is: why do tourists need constant patrolling in the first place? Are we really not able to discern a critical, natural evolutionary process occurring? Do we really need someone to tell us to back right off and give turtles their space? It seems so. Apparently, not everyone can reason that placing your child atop a nesting turtle, for the sake of a photo, is not appropriate.
Costa Rica is a country which relies heavily on tourism, thanks to its superb and pristine wilderness. However, tourism brings threats to this same wilderness, and finding that perfect balance between man and nature is oftentimes a tricky endeavour.
When Ideal Conditions Arise
The most important thing to note is that scenes of overcrowding of beaches, during nesting season, are highly unusual. At most, the beaches of Guanacaste will see about 1,000 turtles laying their eggs on a daily basis.
Yet when conditions are absolutely ideal (as they were last month), almost 5,000 turtles headed ashore to nest. Moreover, these ideal conditions also acted as magnets for the throngs of tourists who descended on the beach, who would normally be deterred by heavy rains and flooded plains. With only five rangers assigned the job of patrolling a 7km-long stretch of beach, it’s easy to see how this particular event occurred.
It’s Not All Bad News
Although many turtle-mums were scared off from nesting, and promptly returned to the high seas, wildlife experts predict that the consequences of the days’ events won’t be as catastrophic as one might imagine.
At times, when turtles themselves overcrowd the beach, they are likely to destroy each others nests. And, more poignantly, the Olive Ridley Turtles in question are not critically endangered, so the species will likely not be detrimentally affected in the long run.
Preservation is at the Forefront
The preservation and safety of turtles is, and always has been, at the forefront of the Costa Rican Government regulations. They rightly surmise that as long as these gentle giants thrive on and off their coastlines, ecotourism will continue to flourish. It’s of utmost importance, however, to know what comes first. The turtles!
Strict guidelines determine how you can see the turtles, and where. Certain areas, particularly loved by endangered species, are completely off-bounds, while others are open at certain times of year, and under certain conditions. As a nature loving tourist, you are expected to uphold to these guidelines and make sure to book your turtle-nesting tour only with reputable companies, whose priority is to ensure the turtles’ space is respected.