Urpiano beach Leatherback turtle conservation

Protecting leatherback and other endangered turtles on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica

Rainforest Concern has been protecting marine turtles on the Caribbean coast since 1993. The great success of our work with the Pacuare Reserve saw a massive reduction in poaching of leatherback turtle eggs. As a result of this positive experience we have turned our attention to Urpiano beach, immediately to the south of Pacuare.

Since 2016, Rainforest Concern and its Costa Rica team have run a programme to patrol Urpiano beach and protect the eggs and hatchlings during the nesting and hatching season. Previously, Urpiano had been notorious for illegal poaching of turtle eggs - in an initial survey conducted in 2015, 100% of eggs were poached.

This project’s aim is to protect the beach for the turtles' long-term survival. Through monitoring and protection, environmental education and involving the local community, our goal is to ensure these hatchlings have a higher chance of survival.

Bárbara excavating a turtle nest at the hatchery
Bárbara Barrera in the hatchery

How do we protect the nests?

To maintain a secure, protected nesting area, daily activities consist of close monitoring and patrolling of the beach.

Given the high threat of poaching, eggs are carefully relocated to a hatchery under continual surveillance.

The future of leatherback turtles at Urpiano beach

Rainforest Concern has a proven record working in Costa Rica to protect marine turtles, achieving dramatic reductions in killings and egg poaching.

Over the last seven years since the Urpiano Beach Project was established, we have worked hard to make a significant difference to the survival rates of this marine turtle colony.
In the first year of the project we were able to save around 18% of nests. In year two, this increased to 23%.

The 2021 season was the most successful so far:
As the country started to recover from the pandemic and restrictions were lifted, it created difficulties for us due to the presence of more poachers. Despite this, 32% of nests were saved and a record 60% of hatchlings were released to the sea.

We need help in expanding the project and building infrastructure in these early years - your support would be hugely beneficial in doing this.

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Measuring a leatherback

As well as patrolling the beach and protecting the nests, details of nesting females and hatchlings are recorded, and unhatched eggs are excavated to assess the reasons for their lack of development.