Olive ridley sea turtles have an abundant population, but have seen recent drops in numbers.
It’s troubling when humans stand in the way of nature for the sake of entertainment, such as the nesting turtles in Costa Rica disturbed by tourists which has seen to a negative impact on their species. The changing climate, predators and aggressive commercial harvesting is enough without us adding more fuel to the fire.
The olive ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) are commonly found within the warm waters of the Pacific or Indian Ocean, swimming around from India or even New Zealand. However, they have also been present around the western coast of Africa, and the eastern coast of South America, such as Brazil, Venezuela and Guyana.
They are one of the most abundant species of turtles spread throughout the world, but their numbers had still seen a significant drop due to reckless fishing and their natural vulnerability to predators. It makes survival for their young incredibly difficult, but they manage to pull through by careful means and measures.
This year, thousands of them migrated to the shores of Costa Rica, to the Ostional Wildlife Refuge in Guanacaste, as they do each year to lay their eggs. However, this time around, they were met by a mob of selfie-seeking tourists, who did no exceptional effort by any means to leave the animals undisturbed.
The lowering waters caused by El Nino this year allowed tourists access to areas previously inaccessible, where they encountered the turtles and proceeded to do the most social media-driven act that is unfortunately present today everywhere: touch, take pictures, and take pictures while touching. Because why not.
According to secretary of Environment Ministry’s Workers Union, Leonel Delgado, the disturbance has caused many of the turtles to abandon their quest of egg laying, and instead retreat back to the ocean scared of the intruders.
The administrator of the Ostional Wildlife Refuge, Carlos Hernández, has stated that many of the tourists have gotten to the usually secluded area through illegal access points, as it’s common practice for a licensed guide to be required for their visitation. However, a majority of the intruders were not allowed and were illegally trespassing.
The national police was called to aid the park rangers in controlling the large mob, but chaos ensued nonetheless. The problem stemmed in the fact that the tourists were not quietly observing this incredible event of nature, but were instead being loud, snapping pictures, touching, taking selfies and even placing their children on the turtles for the sake of a picture.
Authorities in Costa Rica has expressed their intent on enforcing better regulations and permitting only experienced tour guides access to the beach in the future, along with hopefully better restriction on access points.
There are enough things in the world causing a deficit in olive ridley turtles population without the entirely unnecessary disturbance, though park officials have stated that some of the animals returned to lay their eggs at night when the mob dispersed.
Image source: nathab.com