By Carmen Lyons
After that, we arrived at the place that we would be spending the night in tents, outside our host, Gilbert’s house by the beach. Gilbert used to be the director of Ostional’s turtle project. We started to watch a movie about Ostional. People were collecting sea turtle eggs and putting them into bags. I expected to see them saving the endangered turtles and releasing them into the wild, but I soon realized that that was not the case. The community was legally collecting and harvesting hundreds of turtle eggs to eat and sell throughout Costa Rica. Poaching turtle eggs is illegal all times of the year in Costa Rica except in Ostional during arribadas. An arribada is when hundreds of female turtles come at once to the same beach to nest and lay eggs. Sea turtles usually lay their eggs alone, so arribadas don’t happen very often.
When an arribada occurs in Ostional, the community identifies nests and digs up eggs which they put into bags. They send these eggs out to Costa Rican cities, eggs costing approximately 50 cents to 2 dollars apiece. We talked to the director of the organization for more than an hour and asked him lots of questions. He only speaks Spanish, so one of the Costa Rican students translated to those of us who don’t understand Spanish.
Ostional uses the money that they gain to benefit their community. They have created a nutrition center, a high school computer lab, and a doctors office. They claim that they are helping save the turtles by reducing the number of nests during arribadas, because when all of the turtles are nesting on the same beach, they dig up each others nests and destroy each others eggs.
Visiting Ostional gave me a new perspective on turtle conservation. It helped me understand how important community involvement is, and reducing poverty in order to save a species. I don’t really agree with Ostional’s method of turtle conservation because they are harvesting endangered sea turtle eggs to eat, but I can see that their method works for their community. Seeing Ostional’s model of turtle conservation gives me hope that here at Cirenas we can create a program to save turtles that will be community oriented, but help without harvesting the eggs for food.