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SEA TURTLES


Seven species of sea turtles exist in the whole world; five species arrive for nesting in Costa Rica and four in Tortuguero. All species of sea turtles are endangered. Several thousands of green turtles (Chelonia mydas) lay their eggs between June and October on the beaches of Tortuguero. The female of the green turtle lays about 110 eggs which hatch after approx. 2 months. The few turtle hatchlings which survive their enemies will come back after 25 to 35 years to nest for the first time. The green turtle has been consumed by humans for soup, that's were the name comes from. It is not green, but the fat is green and this fat has been used for the soup. The green turtle feeds on sea grass. The leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) reaches 2 meters in length and arrives between February and June. It is different to the other species, the leatherbacks belongs to a family of sea turtles which has evolved before the dinosaurs. Its shell is softer; it consists of tiny bone plates which are covered by a tissue which is leather like. It is an excellent deep sea diver and feeds on jellyfish. Plastic bags, especially from banana plantations cause problems, many leatherbacks die from feeding on a floating plastic bag which resembles a jellyfish. Around hundred females come to Tortuguero; more important nesting places in Costa Rica are Playa Manzanillo (Caribbean coast) in the same season and Playa Grande at the pacific coast from October to February. The other two species, the hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the loggerhead (Caretta caretta) arrive only in very small numbers. The hawksbill is extremely endangered, because its shell is used for handicraft, jewelry etc. and because its habitat is endangered, it lives in the coral reefs, feeding on sponges. The hawksbill lays its eggs between May and October, the loggerhead between April and May, but in the last few years no females of the loggerhead have been observed. Since the fifties the sea turtles of Tortuguero have been studied. Archie Carr founded the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, with the headquarters in Gainesville, Florida. The research still continues, turtles are tagged and measured after laying the eggs and with some turtles a DNA-examination is done. Some of the nests are marked to examine hatching rates. In July and September 2000 a turtle-tracking project started, satellite-transmitters have been attached to the shell of four green turtles and two hawksbill turtle. In 2001 three green turtle have been satellite-tracked and in 2002 another one. This last turtle is named Miss Junie 2 and carries the transmitter of Miss Junie 1 who has been killed by Nicaraguan fishers. Miss Junie 2 is the only one, whose transmitter still sent signals. Miss Junie 2 migration can be observed: www.cccturtle.org    

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