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Project details

Support Sea Turtles and Sustainable Tourism in Costa Rica Costa Rica , RUN BY: Sea Turtle Conservancy | STATUS: COMPLETED

This project is 100% Funded



USD 25,001

Raised from 11,032 people

Project Background

Tortuguero Beach, located on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, hosts the largest green turtle rookery in the Western Hemisphere. For 60 years, Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) has conducted an annual research and conservation program at Tortuguero, which has achieved phenomenal success at increasing sea turtle population levels and replacing the consumptive use of sea turtles with sustainable ecotourism.

Despite this history of achievement, the sea turtle species nesting at this beach still face numerous threats, one of the most pressing of which is climate change and the toll it is taking on the reproductive success and survivability of green turtles. One of the key ways rising temperatures impact sea turtles is in the ratio of male and female hatchlings being produced (warmer temperatures produce mostly female turtles).

STC will use a new, non-lethal method to determine the sex ratios of sea turtles hatching at Tortuguero. This will provide the first-ever information on this issue in the area and will help STC develop conservation management strategies to address the impacts of climate change on this globally important population.

STC will also train local biologists to carry out this important program, which will build conservation capacity in the region. Another critical element of the project is an ongoing program to create and maintain a sustainable eco-tourism program that directly benefits local communities and minimizes any harmful impacts on turtle nesting.

Watch: Turtle Conservation in Costa Rica

A short video from World Nomads on the work STC is doing in Tortuguero and how tourism is positively impacting this important turtle nesting site.

Project Aims

  1. Continue a successful long-term sea turtle monitoring and conservation program in Costa Rica by using trained students to carry out the work.
  2. Gather information to adapt conservation strategies on the nesting beach to address and reduce the impacts of climate change.
  3. Promote sea turtle eco-tourism as a way to build sustainable conservation programs that provide revenue for local communities.

Project Objectives

  1. Monitor three sea turtle species nesting at Tortuguero and determine long-term population trends and survival threats. 
  2. Record sea turtle nest temperature and utilize a new, non-lethal technique to determine the sex of Tortuguero’s green sea turtle hatchlings.
  3. Reduce human impacts on Tortuguero’s sea turtles and the coastal and marine environments critical to the survival of these species.
  4. Work with local communities and vendors to put in place and maintain eco-tourism opportunities that attract conservation-minded tourists who want to experience sea turtles in the wild. 

Project Outcomes

  1. Twenty-five aspiring biologists from under-served nations will receive intensive, practical hands-on experience in sea turtle research techniques.
  2. STC will collect the first data of its kind about the sex ratios of hatchling turtles being produced at the most important nesting site for green turtles in the Western Hemisphere, which will allow us to design conservation strategies to offset the impacts of climate change on this species. 
  3. Three species of sea turtles nesting in Costa Rica will benefit from investigation into population trends and survival threats. 
  4. A sustainable eco-tourism program will be maintained at Tortuguero to provide revenue for local communities in a way that reduces impacts to sea turtles. NOTE: There will be opportunities for turtle enthusiasts to assist hands-on with sea turtle conservation at this project location.

What's Covered in Project Costs

The budget for this project is $69,500. These costs include salaries for the project’s research coordinators, research supplies and equipment, food for station staff and volunteers, gas for project boats, and travel support for our research assistants. STC raises a portion of annual project costs through revenue from the Visitor’s Center (entrance fees and merchandise sales), as well as from several annual grants from supporting foundations. Research Assistants are unpaid, but STC provides room and board throughout the season. STC is seeking $25,000 through this campaign to help fully fund the project. See itemized budget below:

  • Salary for Project Coordinators: $15,000
  • Research supplies and equipment: $20,000
  • Food for Field Station Staff and Volunteers: $25,000
  • Transportation Assistance for Research Assistants: $6,000
  • Gas for project boats: $3,500

Project Partners and Community Involvement

STC works hard to develop good relationships with the public schools in Tortuguero, and leaders of the communities where we work. We work closely with Costa Rica’s Ministry of Environment, as well as park rangers who oversee Tortuguero National Park. STC also provides training each year to local nature tour guides, including information on basic sea turtle biology, nesting behavior, and best practices to reduce impacts of tourist activities on nesting turtles.

STC is a guiding member of the Tortuguero Conservation Area Regional Council, which is comprised of representatives of NGOs, education centers and the private sector; the Council plays a key role in the administration and management decisions of the Tortuguero Conservation Area (ACTo), including many issues that directly impact sea turtle conservation.

Within Costa Rica, STC shares its expertise and its data with a wide array of NGOs and government bodies. As a member of the Consultative Committee of the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Marine Turtles, STC has been able to share critical information to guide this international sea turtle accord.

Part of a Larger Strategy

For 60 years, STC has conducted sea turtle research and protection on the Caribbean coast of Central America. This project as a continuation from previously completed Footprints Network project fits well with the organization’s long-term strategies and goals for sea turtle recovery. All sea turtle species in the world face considerable threats from climate change, especially in Latin America.

In order to systematically improve sea turtle survival, STC must learn about the impacts of climate change that are taking place in Tortuguero in order to reduce these impacts in the future. This program will help accomplish this overall goal. 

How was this funded?

Thanks to hundreds of tiny donations from these online businesses and their customers.

World Nomads USA
World Nomads Canada
Travel Insurance Direct AU
Travel Insurance Direct NZ
World Nomads Australia
World Nomads NZ
World Nomads UK
World Nomads Global
World Nomads Europe
World Nomads Ireland
Sea Turtle Conservancy

It is the mission of Sea Turtle Conservancy to ensure the survival of sea turtles within the Caribbean, Atlantic and Pacific through research, education, training, advocacy and protection of the natural habitats upon which they depend.