A group of turtle egg poachers have taken up residence on Playa Tortuga near Ojochal, according to biologists working in the area. The poachers have stolen at least three nests and threatened volunteers working on the beach.
“I’ve been working here for seven years and we’ve had problems with squatters on the beach before,” said Oscar Brenes, director of the Playa Tortuga Reserve in Ojochal. “They steal nests and threaten people on the beach. They scare us.”
Endangered sea turtles nest along Costa Rica’s southern Pacific from July through December, and it is peak season for Olive Ridley turtles at Playa Tortuga. Brenes and five volunteers walk the beach every night to collect eggs and rebury them in a hatchery. The nests the volunteers don’t get to first are scooped up by a group of squatters who camp on the beach in order to collect eggs and sell them illegally on the black market for up to $1 an egg.
Last season, Playa Tortuga Reserve saved around 120 nests, but according to Brenes, this year the poachers stand to challenge their success. There are between two and ten poachers regularly walking the beach, Brenes said, and so far they’ve nabbed at least two nests. Each nest has an average of 100 eggs.
“We called the Ojochal Police but they said it wasn’t their responsibility,” Brenes said.
Lacking a vehicle, the Ojochal Police said they could not get personnel to the beach. The Uvita Police have gone by twice, but both times were unable to catch the poachers red-handed.
“We have personnel problems,” Abelardo Hernández, an officer with the Uvita Police, told The Tico Times. “We don’t have enough people for regular patrols.”
According to Brenes, the police did not patrol the beach this past weekend and the poachers continue to raid nests.