The Pacific coast of Central America has long been a breeding ground, literally, for sea turtles. Temperatures, currents, and seclusion have all made for an ideal environment in which sea turtles deposit eggs, and those eggs mature and hatch safely. When the time comes, the ocean draws the hatchlings back. It is an awesome ritual. But like many other fragile ecosystems, we have endangered the whole thing. In recent decades, sea turtles have come under increasing threat from anthropogenic climate change, land development, increased boat traffic close to shore, and increased plastic waste. In response, turtle refuges and hatcheries have been established along the isthmus to ensure these majestic creatures have a fair shot at survival.
And we had a chance to participate. The embassy has a connection with a local turtle refuge and arranged for a day at the beach releasing newly hatched turtles into the ocean. We jumped at the chance. How could we not? We are environment enthusiasts. I have been working on environmental issues for the last decade. And, we were curious to see how Luca would react.
The turtles we released had already hatched and given a small head start on their development prior to release. But they were still tiny enough that they required careful handling and release from a point we were not allowed to cross in order to give them time to find the water on their own. As we placed them on the sand, their flippers flailing wildly, I began to feel a twinge similar to when I watch Luca try something for the first time; walking that fine line between letting him discover something himself while protecting him from himself. I knew the turtles would find the ocean on their own. They have been doing so for millennia. Still, as they flailed headlong toward a receding surf that seemed to swallow them like a light snack, I could not help but think they needed a bit more time or help in these initial weeks. During an information session prior to the release, one of the guides explained the turtles have about a fifty percent chance of survival. Maybe I just wanted to help boost their odds a bit.
As for Luca, he was not entirely sure of what was going on. He lightly touched a turtle Ray Ray held up to him. Hold them was out of the question. In fact, Luca was more interested in the ocean in general than the turtles. However, he said the world “turtle,” – or his closest approximation – which we considered a high water mark of the day.
In addition to the photos here, feel free to explore the gallery for others. And if you come see us, perhaps you too can participate in a turtle release and do your part to help preserve this essential part of nature.