Tortuguero Turtle Season Report
1999: Turtles, Park Guards & Jaguars, Oh My!
The sea turtle monitoring in 1999 began with the Leatherback Program. Research assistants arrived in March and joined forces in patrolling the beach at night to tag as many as they could of the largest of the living sea turtles.
recorded during the 1999 season, along with 14 hawksbills and even a few late nesting leatherbacks. In an interesting twist, a green turtle that was encountered nesting at Tortuguero in early October 1999 had originally been saved
1999 shaped up to be a good leatherback season with a total of 100 tagged leather- backs and a hawksbill. Halfway through the season more leatherbacks had already been tagged than in all of 1998. From track surveys it was determined that more leatherbacks are crawling ashore to nest, and many of them conveniently nested close to the CCC station.
After a short break in monitoring activities from late May to early June, activities resumed in earnest with the Green Turtle Program. After 1998's record nesting, everyone expected that 1999 would be a low year, though even a low year in Tortuguero means more green turtles than in most of the world's other green turtle nesting aggregations. This is normal, since nesting activity typically varies dramatically from one year to the
CCC continued its ongoing community outreach program by having local students participate in activities such as beach surveys, writing stories about turtles, playing sea turtle games and visiting the CCC visitors center.
next. The explanation is that individual females do not come to nest every year but instead nest every two, three, four or more years. Nevertheless, the nesting season provided enough nesting green turtles to satisfy tour guides, tourists and turtle conservationists.
A total of 1,041 newly tagged green turtles were
by Panamanian wildlife authorities and tagged by Drs. Anne and Peter Meylan in Bocas del Toro province, Panama. (See article on page 8.) CCC continued its ongoing community outreach program by inviting Tortuguero school to the research station. The students were divided into groups and the groups were rotated between different activi- ties: slide show about sea turtle biology, beach walk, drawing turtles and writing stories relating to turtles, exercises/games relating to turtles and visiting the CCC visitors center. In May, CCC staff conducted a successful tour guide training course and continued to in- crease communication and cooperation between CCC researchers and local guides. In addition, there was strong media interest in Tortuguero turtles. Two Costa Rican TV channels filmed poachers being pursued and arrested by park rangers. They interviewed villagers who said that turtles are worth more to them alive than dead, and of course they interviewed CCC’s turtle researchers about turtle biology and the work being carried out in Tortuguero. One of the Costa Rican
After 1998’s record nesting, 1999 was expected to be a low year, though research- ers and participants still had plenty of turtles to keep them busy.
see Turtle Season on page 11