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The Journey of the Costa Rica Leatherback Turtle

Costa Rica News – One of the biggest draws for tourists coming to Costa Rica is watching and volunteering to help with the birth of sea turtles on the coasts of Costa Rica.  The journey for these young creatures is dangerous and has perils each step of the way.  

Leatherback Turtle Costa RicaLeatherbacks that are born in Guanacaste only stay on the coast for a few brief seconds. The winds drive them toward the waves. There are special currents that circulate like a highway leading the baby turtles directly to the dome, an area rich in biodiversity, where they’ll grow for about 20 years.

Though the dome is a safehaven, of the turtles who reach the sea, only one per 1,000 will make it to adulthood. Two decades of research have been conducted in Guanacaste. The tracing of adult females showed scientists to the dome, which is located 300 miles off the Gulf of Papagayo. It’s created by winds and currents upwelling the cold water and trapping the nutrients underneath it. Blue whales also take shelter in the dome.

Adult turtles move out of the dome, to cooler waters, when they begin to suffer from the heat. They are reptiles, thus very apt to moderate their body temperature by altering their behaviors.

The adolescent turtle is something we know very little about. Scientists hope to learn about these ‘lost years’ soon, by placing acoustic tags in infants and researching them as they grow. So little is known about those years because they are spent in the dome. The turtles don’t surface again until they are adults coming up to nest. That’s about 20-25 lost years.

To learn even more, researchers plan to put receptors on the Playa Grande beach to detect when a turtle is near and how long it stays. Later on, they may use satellite transmitters to track its route at sea.

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