Costa Rica’s National Police rescued five more green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) weighing up to 150 kilograms last week in Moín, Limón, on the northern Caribbean coast. The rescue was a success story for a more aggressive patrolling strategy on the coast that has seen some success in saving the endangered turtles and protecting their eggs.
The five female sea turtles were found tied and on their backs near the mouth of the Moín River along the beach with the same name, according to a July 22 statement from the Public Security Ministry. Allan Obando, National Police chief for Limón, said that there were no arrests in connection with the poaching.
Green sea turtles can weigh up to 320 kilograms (700 pounds). The creatures nest on Costa Rica’s Caribbean beaches from July to October and are often poached for their meat and eggs. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Green listed green sea turtles as endangered.
The turtles, which weighed between 120 and 150 kilograms, were sent to the Jaguar Rescue Center in Puerto Viejo for care, where two others also recently have been taken. Police have rescued at least seven of the ancient reptiles so far this year from poachers who capture them for their meat as they come ashore to lay their eggs.
One of the five was released on July 22, according to social media posts from the Jaguar Rescue Center and Public Security Minister Gustavo Mata. Encar García, the center’s biologist, told The Tico Times that two more were released in good condition Monday morning. The remaining two and a third, which arrived at the rescue center on July 3, remain in serious condition, she said. These three turtles suffered harpoon wounds that punctured their lungs, an injury that keeps the animals from regulating their buoyancy. Without the ability to dive and rise, the sea turtles cannot feed themselves in the wild.
Obando told The Tico Times that the rescue of the turtles last week is a direct result of a two-pronged approach from the National Police, Coast Guard and volunteer groups that patrol the beaches. The first half of the strategy is improving prevention. Better coordination with volunteers, other law enforcement agencies, like the Coast Guard, and the community have given police the information they need to take action. Judicial Investigation Police rescued a 120-kilogram green sea turtle tied up in a private home in Limón thanks to a tip from a neighbor this month, for example.
“If they see boats or cars in the area they let us know. They’re our eyes on the beach,” Obando said.
The police chief said that the second half of the strategy was to increase their physical resources at the beach. Four full-time police officers now patrol the beaches in Moín, where conservationist Jairo Mora was killed in an altercation with poachers on May 31, 2013. With officers on the ground, law enforcement can act more quickly to save the turtles before they are sold for meat.
Obando said that the strategy is responsible for the protection of an estimated 1,000 sea turtles this season, and a hatchery program in coordination with law enforcement has released 400 baby green sea turtles. Another group of hatchlings is expected to be released next week, he said.