Being famous has its consequences, and the sea turtles that come to Ostional to lay their eggs are paying a high price for their fame.
Luego de que más de cinco mil turistas visitaran la playadurante el primer fin de semana de septiembre para ver la masiva arribadade las tortugasLora,los 26 voluntarios y dos funcionarios del Minaeautorizados para acompañarlos, sevieron saturados y con las manos atadas para controlar a los visitantes.
A visit by more than 5,000 tourists to the beach during the first week of September, to witness the massive arrival of Lora turtles, left the 26 volunteers and two MINAE officials who are authorized to accompany guests overwhelmed and unable to control the visitors.
The scarce personnel and instructive material to guide the tourists affected the turtles’ reproductive activity, which was acknowledged by Mauricio Mendez, sub-director of the Tempisque Conservation Area (ACT – Area de Conservacion Tempisque), Nicoya.
“Noone saw this coming; we didn’t expect so many people. In reality it got out of hand; we even had to use megaphones to give instructions to the visitors, and we had to remove a lot from the beach. This was a hard lesson, but we should learn and prepare, because this will keep happening in the future and we should be prepared,” said Mendez.
The turtles’ arrival started on Thursday, September 3 and lasted until Monday, September 7. According to data managed by the ACT, some 133,000 turtles arrived on those days.
Tomas Chavarria, secretary for the Local Guides Association (Asociacion de Guias Locales), said that people came from everywhere, uncontrolled.
“We have the task of preparing ourselves for the next arrival because this time we couldn’t control [it], since the beach is huge and people were coming from everywhere. What we normally do is allow visitors to enter in groups and for a set length of time; the guides accompany and teach them, but this time it got out of control,” said Chavarria.
For her part, Magdalena Vega, president of the Ostional Development Association (ADIO – Asociacion de Desarrollo Integral de Ostional), said that the guides’ association provides some 14 guides, while ADIO provides 12.
Two guards representing ACT work in shifts, but they are supported by the coast guard, officials from the Fishing and Aquaculture Institute (INCOPESCA – Instituto de Pesca y Acuicultura) and the Public Force.
“We have a protocol in which only groups of ten people are allowed per turn, for a period of 15 minutes, to avoid big groups of people that can hinder the turtles’ normal and natural activity. Everyone who enters should be accompanied by a guide, who explains what they should do and what is not allowed. Because for us tourism is important, but we can’t stop protecting the turtles,” commented Vega.
Mauricio Mendez, of the ACT, indicated that hiring more guards is impossible:
“Hiring more guards is improbable for us due to budget reasons; what we would do in this case is move personnel from other conservation areas to cover the next arrival, with the goal of solving the lack of personnel in Ostional,” said Mendez.
Méndez dijo que existe un reglamento para ingresar al lugar para presenciar el evento. Entre las medidas establecidas están, no utilizar cámaras con luz blanca, no colocarse de forma frontal a los animales para no desviar su trayectoria, no tocarlas y sobre todo contar con el acompañamiento de un guía debidamente identificado que valla orientando a las personas.
Mendez explained that regulations for entering the beach to witness the event do exist. Among the established rules are not using cameras with a white light, not placing yourself in front of the animals so as to not change their path, not touching them, and above all, having a duly-identified guide along to control the group.
The next arrival is predicted for some time between October 4 and 7, for which it is hoped that a significant number of personnel will be mobilized.