Costa Rica

Last night I stayed up till 5am finishing a paper for one of my classes. Some of the information I learned was very interesting and since it was on a topic I care about I thought I would share it with who ever is willing to read it. Please note that the part of the paper I am sharing was written at about 3am and is only a section of my entire paper. The sitations are at the bottom in footnotes.

            Costa Rica is home to many species of plants and animals, several of which are endangered species. Although Costa Rica is one of the leading nations in the green movement the country still has some bad practices and wildlife is suffering. Forests are often cut down to make way for cattle ranches[1] and hotels for tourists are encroaching on already shrinking shore lines.[2] This habitat loss is a problem for many species of both animals and plants.

            Three species whose populations are dwindling are the hawksbill, leatherback, and green sea turtles. Rising ocean waters are eating away at their nesting beaches from one end while hotels and beach houses take land on the other end. This is leaving less room for the turtles to lay eggs. According to Carlos Drews, a species coordinator for the World Wildlife Fund, if this pattern continues turtles will be nesting “between the tennis courts and swimming pools”.[3]

            Whether or not you believe in global warming, rising sand temperatures are having a devastating effect on these sea turtle populations. The gender of sea turtles is determined while they are developing in the egg, and it depends entirely upon the temperature of the sand they are buried in. At 85.4 degrees Fahrenheit a batch of eggs yields about 50% male and 50% female turtles. However, when the sand reaches 89.6 degrees all turtles will be female, and when the sand reaches 93 degrees all of the hatchlings die.[4] Volunteers often relocate eggs to cooler sand so that the male to female ration can be balanced.

            Along with being threatened by habitat loss and rising temperatures sea turtle populations are also threatened by poachers. Elizabeth Rosenthal explains that young Costa Rican’s often look up to poachers because they make a lot of money; this is a problem because those young children then aspire to be poachers.[5] Even people not looking for profit go to the beach to collect turtle eggs to eat. They are considered a very tasty food by many locals who never stop to think about the animal that they are eating. Some Costa Rican’s are working to change this attitude by offering to let locals watch as newly hatched sea turtles are released for hatcheries and make their way toward the sea.[6]

            Clearly Costa Rican wildlife needs protecting or many species will go extinct. Some locals are passionate about helping to rebuild sea turtle populations, but many more don’t care about the sea turtles or think of them as an important species on this planet. While the country is working on reducing their carbon footprint and slowing deforestation, many problems still exist and are threatening endangered species.


[1] CIA World Factbook. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/cs.html Accessed on April 17, 2010

[2] Rosenthal, Elizabeth. “Turtles Are Casualties of Warming in Costa Rica” New York Times November 14, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/14/science/earth/14turtles.html?_r=1 Accessed 4/17/2010. 

[3] Rosenthal, Elizabeth. “Turtles Are Casualties of Warming in Costa Rica” New York Times November 14, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/14/science/earth/14turtles.html?_r=1 Accessed 4/17/2010.

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] Rosenthal, Elizabeth. “Turtles Are Casualties of Warming in Costa Rica” New York Times November 14, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/14/science/earth/14turtles.html?_r=1 Accessed 4/17/2010.

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2 thoughts on “Costa Rica

  1. A very worthwhile paper, IMO. I think one of the keys is “to let locals watch as newly hatched sea turtles are released for hatcheries and make their way toward the sea”. Seeing is believing, but even more important seeing tends to make people understand so much more than just being told about it.

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