Sunday, July 15, 2012

Day 15 - The Early Bird Catches the... Poacher

Date: 7/15/12

Location: Playa San Miguel, Costa Rica

Word of the day: Bones - Huesos
Turtle Fact: Sea Turtles can have sex up to 12 hours in the open water.

6:00am wake up. I immediately head to the beach to check out the sun rising (not sun rise) and go for a little stroll on the beach. A local semi-stray, cute, friendly black dog joins me (soon to find out his name is Captain). I am one of the first foot prints on the beach, along with some other birds and dog prints. I head all the way north to the end of the beach. This is my first time walking this stretch when it is light. At the end there is an area full of rocks - good for finding crab, sea urchin and other mollusks. As I head back to the house, I notice the tide line towards the top of the beach. It is filled with 16inches of garbage all the way down the beach. From bottle caps, to shoes to random plastic pieces. It's sad to see this, but at the same time, the treasure hunter inside me is very excited. Needless to say I look forward to my treasure hunts.

On my way back, I notice some turtle tracks that were not there last night. As I follow them up the beach and into the vegetation, I see that this nest was poached! Essentially, there was tracks of the of the turtle lead to and from the nest. Where the nest would have been, there was a large hole, surrounded by dog and other human foot print - DAMN. This turtle must have walked up the beach after our patrol. I get back to the house to inform the others of what I saw. Not even 5 minutes later a younger Tico (Costa Rican) stops by the house and has a conversation with Maddie. I am informed that as I was walking down the beach, I actually came across the turtle nest as our "friend" was digging a "false" hole to protect the eggs from poachers until we  (Pretoma Volunteers) got there to collect the eggs. As soon as he saw me, he dipped back into the brush (which I did not see) - why? I don't know. Well, this Tico thought I saw him digging the whole and thus stealing the eggs. So he made sure to stop by the house and let the girls know right away what was going on.

BACKSTORY/PLOT: So there is a family that lives about 4 houses south of our Pretoma House in San Miguel. This family (about 7 sons) are known poachers in the area and are very friendly to everyone including Pretoma Staff (mainly because the sons like the females that volunteer with Pretoma a couple houses away). Rumor has it this family is slightly ashamed to be poachers as in the past. They have been seen walking away from a turtle nest, in the middle of the night, when being approached by volunteers combing the beach. One of the sons claims to be against the poaching his family does. However, it's a living and they must obey their father's orders. With that said, the younger Tico currently at the house is one of poacher's children who is against the poaching. *Keep in mind I am sure the these kids will say anything to impress the ladies (of Pretoma), the source of my poacher knowledge.

Knowing that this was a false hole, we head back to the nesting location, where the Tico reveals the real location. Sure enough, as we start digging into the sand (with our hands) we find the eggs! 90 eggs later we walk back to the hatchery to put them back into the ground, in a safe place. What a Morning

SIDENOTE: Poachers really have a small window to gather the eggs. Once the eggs have been buried in the sand for more than 8 hours (and the incubation process begins) the embryo attaches itself to the side wall of the egg. At this point the egg is less desirable to the poachers. So within our story, the child poacher that got to the eggs right before me, may have been more inclined to give me the eggs as the turtle would have laid them about 6-7 hours earlier.

Breakfast! After taking inventory of the house and it's amenities, I help the girls set up a couple hammocks just outside our kitchen area - the hangout spot. Before you know it's lunch time.

After lunch a couple of us head down to the Estuary at the south end of the beach. This is what divided "my beach", Costa de Oro from the one I am currently working on, Playa San Miguel. After we return, Matt arrives. Matt is another research assist (like me). He will also be stationed at Costa de Oro with me for the next couple of months.

The rest of the afternoon we hangout/get to know each other and do some chores around the house. I head for a little run before dinner along the beach. This easily seems to be my new favorite thing. The is the perfect mix of hard and soft. Your feet sink in just enough to counteract the pounding of your feet hitting the ground. As I run, the sun is setting behind the mountain/hill to north, which provides an awesome reflection the waves going in and out. I get back just in time to wash up and join everyone for a walk down road for some grub.

After dinner I take a little food coma nap in preparation for tonight walk. Matt, Wilson (Maddie's BF and paid Pretoma employee) and myself walk the beach. Small conversation is made between Wilson and Matt as they speak Spanish with each other. I catch on and contribute when ever I can. Using the words I know, I am able to grasp what the conversation is about and what is happening. Unfortunately we do not find any turtles on our patrol, but another team did. Oh Well. Sleep

  • Never Assume...
  • Poachers come in all shapes and sizes
  • Mutual respect comes from the oddest of place

Food: Beef and Rice
Animals: Humans, Dogs, Crabs 

Something I am thankful for: The ability to make friends and others willing to be that friend. 
Something I don't want to admit: That morning when I came across the turtle nest, it was by accident. I just so happened to be picking up a long length of rope off the beach, and one end of it was literately on the turtle track. I am going to have to train my "hawk eyes" for that shapes and patterns to look for in the sand 

Days of Rain: 6/12

Total Turtle Eggs Saved by Me: 162 

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