Costa Rica - January 2014 travel blog

Excavating a hatched nest

Dale watching the excavation process

Sorting of types of eggs remaining and helping next hatchlings in the...

A new hatching found

Entire team working together to bury remains and close up nest

We were up again at 10:30 and enjoyed another great family breakfast with our team at Kike's restaurant. Always an adventure ordering in Spanish but we have great waiters that are patient with us plus have a great English vocabulary.

We had free time to enjoy another romp in the ocean plus time in the refreshing pool. Our feet were grateful to be out of our sneakers and the water was very therapeutic for all of us.

We joined the team leaders on an excavation of previously hatched nests, to collect data. This involved digging up the previous marked nest that had known sightings of hatched leatherbacks the night before. As soon as we started digging, a new baby's head was visible in the sand so the unearthing became much more deliberate and cautious. Because the top layer of sand is so dry, you have to be careful not to cave in the hole you have created. Our biologist took it from here and handed out the contents of the nest. We found 5 live turtles, some decomposed babies, many rotten eggs plus many SAGs (shelled albumin globes) which are fake eggs. These are laid on top of the clutch to provide space and air pockets for the other fertilized eggs. After all the nest had been emptied, the analysis began. The depth was recorded along with the stage of development of each unhatched egg. Not a pleasant task, but a very necessary step to check on the % of number that actually hatched. Once that was completed, the nest area was widened and another live leatherback was found. Now 6 additional new babies would be held until the sunset to be released in the cooler evening. One babysitter was assigned to keep them contained and out of the sun so they wouldn't overheat and bake.

We had been given a lot of facts the first day about the reproductive cycle and egg laying process the first day, but actually being being able to see a nest in the daylight, gave us all a greater understanding of how involved this process is and the work it takes on the mother's part and the work on the hatchings' part to survive. When the time is right, the new hatchling has to break out of its shell, dig up 3 ft to the surface of the beach, get orientated to where the ocean is and then head towards the water with he/she hopes of not getting picked off by a predator on the journey there. The survival ratio is only 1:1000 which is staggering!

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