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Saving Sea Turtles by Eating Their Eggs

Posted by Richard Conniff on August 19, 2013

A local harvests sea turtle eggs in Costa Rica’s Ostional National Park. (Photo: Olivier Blaise/Getty)

A local harvests sea turtle eggs in Costa Rica’s Ostional National Park. (Photo: Olivier Blaise/Getty)

It is one of nature’s great spectacles. On certain nights of the year, huge numbers of olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) mass in the Pacific Ocean just off the beach at Ostional, Costa Rica. Next, tens of thousands of females come clambering ashore over two or three nights to lay their eggs in the sand. These mass nesting events, called arribadas, may occur a half-dozen times over the course of a year on the beach of the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge. And each time, for the first two days, local villagers come out to harvest and sell as many eggs as they can lay their hands on. And it is entirely legal.

The harvest may seem particularly shocking given that Costa Rica has carefully cultivated a reputation as a green destination. On the opposite coast, moreover, a conservationist was murdered earlier this year while trying to prevent poachers from raiding the nests of another sea turtle species. (Police recently arrested suspects, said to be known turtle egg poachers, in that killing.)

But Ostional is different, and for its many supporters, it constitutes … to read the rest of this article, click here.

2 Responses to “Saving Sea Turtles by Eating Their Eggs”

  1. Dear Mr. Conniff,

    I appreciated the idea behind your article entitled “An Unlikely Solution: Saving Turtles by Eating their Eggs” but, unfortunately, legal egg harvest has opened an outlet for the illegal egg harvest.

    Last year, a transmitter scientists from The Leatherback Trust put on a green turtle was taken with green turtle eggs from Playa Nombre de Jesus. Our scientists tracked it to Belén, the town we suspect where the poacher lived, then it went to Liberia and wound up then going to Ostional, where the illegal, poached green turtle eggs were mixed with the legally harvested olive ridley eggs from the arribada. They were stamped as legal and then sent for sale in San Jose, where we suspect the transmitter was destroyed because it stopped responding there.

    Even endangered leatherback sea turtle eggs have been found among eggs for sale with the stamp from Ostional – though these clearly are illegal.

    If you would like more information, I’d be delighted to put you in touch with our field researchers at The Leatherback Trust in Costa Rica.

    Thank you for your consideration. I respect your work deeply and hope you will take a second look at the trade in Ostional.

    With kind regards, Dr. Frank Paladino, President, and Dr. Kristin Reed, Vice President – The Leatherback Trust

    • Thank you for posting this, Frank and Kristin. I hope you will also post it as a comment over at the TakePart site, where my article originally appeared. I believe the same problem of poachers using legal sales to whitewash the sale of contraband is also an insurmountable obstacle for proposals to launch a legal trade in rhino horns or ivory. I should have thought of it in the case of Ostional.

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