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Report reveals Costa Rica’s leatherback turtles in trouble

September 30, 2011

A study published this week in the online science journal, PLos One, reveals the 11 most threatened sea turtle populations, as well as the 12 healthiest, in the world. Turtles that nest in Costa Rica made both lists.

The Pacific Ocean proved a dangerous place for leatherback turtles, which primarily nest in Mexico, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. On the Pacific side of Costa Rica, leatherbacks can be found throughout the coast. Playa Grande in Baulas National Park in the northwest province of Guanacaste supports a major nesting colony.

The leatherbacks that nest on the northern Caribbean coast around National Tortuguero Park and Parisimina beaches are deemed one of the 12 healthiest sea turtle populations. 

The olive ridley turtle in the Pacific Ocean fared well in the study. It was listed among the healthiest sea turtle populations. In Costa Rica, the olive ridley turtle can be found nesting in mass numbers on Ostional and Nancite beaches in Guanacaste.

According to the study, the primary threats to marine turtles are accidental capture by fishermen, poaching of eggs, meat or other turtle products, coastal development, pollution and climate change.

Almost half of the threatened populations were found in the Northern Indian Ocean. The healthiest populations were in Australia, Mexico and Brazil. Other healthy turtle populations were discovered in the Southwest Indian Ocean, Micronesia and French Polynesia.

“Through this process, we have learned a lot about what is working and what isn’t in sea turtle conservation, so now we look forward to turning the lessons learned into sound conservation strategies for sea turtles and their habitats,” said Roderic Mast, one of the paper’s authors.

Scientists hope this study will serve as a wake-up call to push for further protection of sea turtles.

The report, produced by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Marine Turtle Specialist Group (MTSG) and supported by Conservation International (CI) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), is the first comprehensive status assessment of all sea turtle populations globally.

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