After our usual routine for the morning, we had opportunity to watch the biologists perform multiple excavations of old nests at the hatchery. The hatchery is a place to relocate nests that previously were in danger of not surviving. This could be due to tourist traffic patterns on a beach or if a turtle laid her eggs in an area that wasn't high enough on the beach, thus allowing the next high tide to wash them all away. This area is corralled off with fence and chicken wire which only slows down the raccoons, but certainly doesn't keep them out.
This is extremely hot work, very physically draining, and painstakingly slow as not to injure any hatchling that is working their way to the surface. After the contents are analyzed and all live babies counted, they are weighed and measured. Precision calipers are used to measure head size plus length and width of the shell. The baby turtle is then placed in a small case so it can be kept stationary while being weighed. After all of the data has been collected, they are placed in a cool, dark place until the next nightly high tide for release.
Our afternoon adventure was an exciting trip to the estuary that is very close by. We were loaded onto a small motorboat and cruised our way down small inlets and streams. We had an excellent guide that was able to point out all types of birds and wildlife that are common to his area of Costa Rica. There are also plenty of crocodiles so we were all on be lookout for them at all times. After a short time, our boat was anchored and we were off on foot to explore more of the area. Our guide and boat driver lead us down a path but then suddenly stopped us all, picked up a large stick and told us to wait for him. We had no idea of what he had seen or the danger we were in but we did as we were told. After an uncomfortably amount of time, he appeared behind us and told us to follow him. He lead us to an area that had a troupe of howler monkeys and then started barking like a dog in order to get them to respond. It was an amazing sound and we excited to actually seen them so closely. After we were leaving that sight, Dale asked why he was carrying the large stick. He informed us of the potential jaguars that live in Costa Rica but then followed up that he had a bad knee and needed assistance walking!
Back to the boat for more adventure and then we all started getting a whiff of something sweet smelling. He had pulled out his machete and sliced up a multitude of fresh pineapples for us to eat. It was a scrumptious and extremely juicy treat that everyone truly enjoyed. Once we were done, we were all left with sticky fingers that no one wanted to dangle in the crocodile infested water for a rinse.
We then traveled back to our research site to prepare for dinner and another night of patrolling. Another night with no sightings of leatherbacks but we always enjoy chatting with our biologists and our time under the stars.