The annual sea turtle festival on Nov. 15 and 16 at Matapalo Beach, halfway between Manuel Antonio National Park and Dominical on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast, celebrates the Matapalo Sea Turtle Conservation Project and hatching of baby sea turtles. This year’s festival celebrates the project’s 25th anniversary.
Matapalo Beach is a main nesting area for three species of sea turtles in Costa Rica. Every year, from July to December, hundreds of female Pacific Black sea turtles (Chelonia mydas agassizi), Olive Ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea), and Hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) arrive along the pristine Matapalo coast to lay their eggs.
To celebrate the turtle project and baby hatching, the Turtle Festival will feature music, food, dancing, turtle tours and a small fair. There will be varied sports competitions, a hermit crab race, sand sculpture contest, theatrical and cultural presentations, and release of baby sea turtles as they hatch to go back to the sea.
The Matapalo Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Project is operated by the non-governmental, not-for-profit Association of Volunteers for Service in Protected Areas in Costa Rica (ASVO).
Volunteers with the project protect the endangered sea turtles from poachers and predators. They carefully collect the turtle eggs, and bring them to a protected turtle hatchery. There, the eggs incubate from 45 to 60 days until hatching. About 80 to 100 baby turtles hatch from an average nest; however, studies show that only one in 1,000 sea turtles survive to adulthood.
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Article by Shannon Farley