About Us

The purpose of the project is to increase the knowledge of the biology and ecology of Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) and Pacific Green (Chelonia mydas agassizii) sea turtles on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, to monitor nesting activities of the two turtle species in Ostional, to increase the number of individuals in the nesting populations, and further to develope and implement guidelines for better conservation actions.
The Project
Ostional beach is located within the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge (ONWR) in the province of Guanacaste on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. It is an important nesting beach for three of the world’s seven species of sea turtles, and the location of active sea turtle conservation efforts for the past 40 years.The three species that use the beach are: 

The Leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), which nests from October till March each year;

Leatherback Turtle in Gandoca (Foto: Ch. Figgener) 

The Pacific Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas agassizii), which possibly nests year round;

Pacific Green Turtle on the Galapagos (Foto: www.birdsasart.com)

and the Olive Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), which nests year-round, and exhibits solitary nesting as well as an unusual mass nesting behavior called arribada.

Olive Ridley Turtle in Ostional (Foto: Ch. Figgener)

Since 2005 the project has been running in Ostional. Our research is focused on the Leatherback and Pacific Green turtle populations, which historically have received less attention than the Olive ridley turtles nesting at Ostional. Until 2004 no comprehensive research on Leatherback and Pacific Green turtle activity in Ostional had been carried out. Additionaly, despite high rates of poaching being reported, no specific conservation measures had been implemented to protect these two species.
The Leatherback sea turtle is in critical danger of extinction, having experienced a loss of 80% of the total world population in the last 10 years. Populations on the main nesting beaches of the Pacific have declined in some cases by 90%. It is estimated that by the year 2015 the Pacific Ocean Leatherback may disappear completely if no action is taken.  
The Pacific Green sea turtle (also known as the Black turtle) is also currently classified as endangered. Years of constant egg poaching, an excessive mortality rate of adults and juveniles caused by fisheries, and ocean pollution are considered the main causes for their decline.
There is clearly and urgent conservation need to safeguard the nesting populations of these two species in the East Pacific. The data that our project begun to collect on nesting females and their nests play an important role in formulating management strategies that have a greater assurance of achieving conservation goals and that can be put into practise at this beach

Project Funding
The Project is to main parts funded by International Student Volunteers, Inc. (ISV)

Project Achievements
The initial phase of the Leatherback and Pacific Green Sea Turtle Research Project  Ostional has gathered important information on the nesting biology of these two species on Costa Rica's North Pacific coast. Research results from the first 6 years were presented in the 30th Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation in Goa, India 2010

The project directly benefits the community since local families function as home-stays for project volunteer´s and provide that way an additional income. This is suppposed to encourage the protection of these amazing creatures, rather than the traditional consumptive use of sea turtles in Ostional.
In 2004-2005, the project generated income equivalent to the sale of over 700 bags of olive ridley turtle eggs (ca. 146,267 eggs) with 8 families receiving monetary benefit. In 2005-2006 the project generated a gross income equivalent of over 1092 bags of olive ridley turtle eggs (ca. 218,400 eggs) benefiting 11 families. Similar monetary benefits have been achieved in the past seasons.
Another accomplishment of the project is that, thanks to the presence of patrols, the activities of poachers have decreased benefiting not only the Leatherback and Pacific Green turtle population but also the olive ridley turtles that nest within the refuge.