Saturday, September 17, 2011

Malpachi vs Perro

German Tourist, Anita and Me enjoying the tidepools

Wednesday, Anita (A volunteer from London) and I had to do a bunch of exhumations and one of the locals came over to help. Exhumations are always a gamble; you never know if you will find a bunch of babies that were just slow getting out, eggs or lots of depredated babies and maggots. We were lucky cause we only had 1 with bad maggots. As we were opening the un-hatched eggs we found an undeveloped turtle, but it was really cool looking. It had a white stomach with white outlines on its flippers. The tico said we could save it in a jar of alcohol, which we thought was a pretty good idea! So now we have an alcohol soaked turtle fetus on our kitchen counter. In mexico they put worms in the tequila, here in Costa Rica we put turtles in the Guro. I think the tico might have started something because our new goal is to get to a supermarket and buy alcohol and jars to preserve turtle fetuses. We are hoping to preserve turtles in every stage of development. So get excited, people might be getting turtles in a jar as Christmas presents from me. ;)

Yesterday was Costa Rica independence day and so the beach was crazy, no wonder there was another night without turtles. After walking for 3 hours without a turtle I got home and found the local dog, Ready, crying for me. The dog seems to have gotten quite protective of Anita and me. Anyways he starts barking and wants us to see there is a malpachi (raccoon)  in the garbage. His head is in the trash and his rump is hanging out. Ready is so upset and he keeps running over and taking a bite out of the raccoon's butt. The only problem is poor Ready is missing teeth so the raccoon kept rummaging which only upset the dog more. The dynamic was quite funny. Then Wilson returned and helped me get rid of the raccoon so Ready could sleep and wouldn't keep me awake.

After a full night of sleep Anita and I got up early, went to breakfast and then headed to 'los rocas'. 'Las rocas' are big tidepools with many species of fish there. Its amazing there! Every pool has something different to see.

Weeks with of stories!

The internet has been out for a while, so here goes a quick synopsis of the past week and a half.

During this time we filled our hatchery, which holds 145 nests. So we had to build another; it’s a lot smaller, only 35 nests, but it will hold us over until more nests hatch from the original. Making a hatchery is hard work. Lotti (my boss who is possibly one of the most amazing person I've meet. She is from a small Island in England and came to Costa Rica as a volunteer 11 years ago and fell in love and runs a lot of the turtle stuff.)and I went around the town the night before to recruit the local guys to help us.  At 8 am the next morning Lotti, 8 guys and I went out to the beach and began removing all the plants and sifting through all the sand to remove roots. We dug about 3 feet deep in a plot of land that was about 16ft X 20ft. While doing this the guys were cracking jokes and thought it was funny to throw these really gross grub like bugs at me. One even got into my ear. EWWWW!!!!  We finished in record time, it only took 4 hours and after we had a little BBQ. We built it in perfect time because the next night the original hatchery was completely full.

As for a normal turtle patrol, the tide and the moon have been a little out of whack so we haven't had many turtles. I mean I went 6 days without a single new nest, fortunately we had babies hatching almost everyday. It's hard to patrol for 3 hours in the middle of the night when the odds of seeing a turtle aren't very high. Luckily the last couple days the turtles began to come a shore to nest again and its supposed to be a really good week for turtle nesting.

Also this past week I have learned what people meant by the rainy season. Up until the last couple days it has been really mellow maybe a couple minutes of warm rain, but not anymore. We get afternoon showers that continue into the night. One day the rain started early and we figured we would walk to dinner early if we needed to just so we wouldn't have to walk in the rain.  Unfortunately the rain never stopped, it just poured and poured and poured. So we had to walk the kilometer to the restaurant in knee deep water to get dinner. All I could think of was this water is murky and what if there are crocodiles in the road!

Eventually we made it to dinner without a crocodile sighting, ate and headed home for a little nap before we had to patrol for 3 hours. During my nap one of the local dogs, Ready, began to bark at something outside my door. When I went to check what it was the door to my room shut behind me, leaving me locked out. I had a half hour until patrol so ask Wilson, the local coordinator, where I would find the spare key. When he got to the house he looked at me and said there wasn't one but he would remove the metal roof of my room in the morning when it wasn't pouring rain. This left me doing a 3 hour patrol in the pouring rain in just leggings and a tank top.

The next morning we had a beach clean up at 8am, but Wilson showed up around 730 and climbed up on the roof and removed the metal. When he opened the door he showed me my new skylight and said I better hope for no more rain! I laughed and he quickly climbed back up and repaired my roof.  He told me not to worry too much the assistant before me did the same thing and everyone get one freebie.

This week Pretoma thought a good way of getting involved in the community would be to do a series of beach cleans in all the local beaches and have Pretoma  representatives at each one. The beach clean up at San Miguel  was on Monday and it went off without a hitch.  I was pretty successful at recruiting plenty of help.  I was even able to get a couple of the poachers to come. Everyone laughs because I told the oldest of the poachers, Alberto 21 years old, that the beach clean was important and he and his brothers better be there. I think the community was a little surprised I was able to get them to show up.

 I have really fallen in love with the town of San Miguel and I am thinking I am not going to switch back to the "resort house". I mentioned this to my boss and apparently she was going to ask me to stay here as well. So I think for the next 3 months I will be living in San Miguel and only go to Corozalito for a week each month.

I originally wanted to live in Corozalito because the town seemed so great. It is centered around a soccer field and I thought it would be easier to meet locals and learn Spanish, plus I get along really well with the coordinators there. However, I have met so many people here and the locals stop by all the time to say hi. I was even invited to play soccer on the beach with them last week, I opted for watching and having a cold coke. Next week we are going to play baseball.

Its kind of cool living in such a small town, everyone knows me or has heard of me because I am the only American girl living here currently. Since I am going to be here for a long time, unlike volunteers, they can be more invested in being my friend. Every time I walk down the street I get stopped  just because everyone wants to talk to the new girl so I've really gotten to know almost everyone. As a result my Spanish is getting pretty pretty good. I can now joke around with the locals instead of just telling them things that are a necessity to say. I have even found myself talking to English speaking volunteers in Spanish and not even realize it. Some times they will just look at me and say "Can you repeat what you just said? But in English this time."

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Babies and Felipe

                                                                         September 1st
After 2 more days of sunny mornings, mid afternoon tropical shower and patrols with high tides and few turtles, I woke up on Thursday with a feeling that something big had happened. So at 7:30 am I wandered across the yard to check the hatchery (we had 5 nests that should be hatching any day now). When I arrived the hatchery was covered in tortugitas (baby turtles)! The high tide had made its way into the hatchery and moved all our baskets, so when the nest hatched all the babies got loose. I ran and got the coordinator and within 2 minutes we were back in there with a bucket and gloves collecting all 81 of our fresh hatchlings. We walked down the waters edge and poured the babies into the sand and all 81 made a b-line for the water. As they ran they seemed to stop as they heard the water coming and braced themselves for the wave. When they finally reached the water some were pushed back up to the top of the beach where they had started, while others were able to swim into the water. Once the babies were in the water you could see all their little heads bobbing until a wave came and then they quickly duck dove under  and popped up on the other side of the wave

Since almost all of the eggs had hatched we had to excavated the nest to see what happened with all of the eggs that didn’t hatch and look for babies that didn’t make it to the surface. We collected the whole nest in a big blue bucket and took it to the waters edge and sorted the remnants and counted all the eggs.  We found 10 eggs that had not hatched and we had to open each one to see the development stage. yes rotten turtle eggs have about the same horrible smell as a rotten chicken egg. 5 of the eggs were not fertilized or showed no development at all so they smelled disgusting. 3 that when open there was development but it appeared a bug or something had gotten in and 'pipped' the  baby. Then the exciting part 1 baby still alive and kept trying to run to the ocean and another (I named Felipe) who was still struggling to get out of his little egg.

The first one was strong enough to make the long venture into the ocean but Felipe kept just laying with his head in the sand and barely moving. So we put some sand in out big blue bucket and brought Felipe into my room where he would stay until he was strong enough to be released.  When turtles emerge from their egg they have a food storage on their stomach and it is enough food for 2 days. 2 days is an average how long it takes to make it from the nest to the surface. Eating this food storage gives them the strength to make the long journey ahead. Since Felipe was still in his egg when we found him he had a large yellow food storage on his belly, his shell was still soft and he was a little small compared to his brothers and sisters.

For the next day and a half I would check on my baby Felipe every couple hours in hopes that he was strong enough to make it to the ocean. In the mean time another nest hatched with another 80+ eggs and returning the babies was just as special as the first. However nothing has been as special as releasing Felipe.

Midmorning on September 2nd, we found a lone turtle in the hatchery and when I went to release it, I brought Felipe as well. The lone baby when set in the sand began the run towards the ocean but Felipe still laid there occasionally moving his front flippers. So I pick him up and followed the lone turtle out to sea. While holding Felipe in the waves something happened, HE FINALLY WOKE UP AND KNEW WHAT HE HAD TO DO!!!! So I placed him in the same and he started to walk, you could see the drive in his eyes he was gunna make it to the sea. I watched him for over a half hour fight to walk through the sand. It seriously was the most amazing thing I've ever seen. Finally he make it to the waters edge and instead of catching the wave and swimming to sea he was flipped over and push back to the top of the beach. At this point I thought maybe he still isn't ready and I should return him to the bucket and let him rest we could try to release again later. But instead of being defeated Felipe walked faster, tried harder. The desire to make the trek to the sea was still there if not even stronger. So he continued to walk this time when the wave got him and he flipped over I quickly helped him back and thought "just keep swimming! Nadar! Nadar! Nadar!" (I figured he probably understood Spanish and not English being from Costa Rica and all.) After the third little wave, he was doing it. I followed him out and could see his little head bobbing like the others and he even ducked under the waves! Even though I know he was smaller and less prepared than his brothers and sisters I wanna think that maybe in 13 years I will be back in Costa Rica and I will see my little Felipe. Well I guess Felipe would have to be Felipita for me to see again on the beach but either way I hope my little baby will be able to make the long journey ahead for a Lora tortuga.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Just when I thought I was getting my own room

Sept 28th

If Corozalito is the resort house then San Miguel is a nature conservancy. Naturally with in 5 minutes of arriving to San Miguel I had to use the bathroom, so I pulled out  the keys to my room and nonchalantly sauntered to the bathroom. Upon barely opening the bathroom door I hear a high- pitched squeak fallowed by a back thing diving towards my head. YES there was a BAT in my bathroom! I tried to refrain from squealing too loudly and calmly mentioned it to my boss. Ten minutes later and dozens of  waves of the broom the bat was gone and I could use the bathroom in peace.

That night we had a disappointing patrol due to very extreme and fast tides. When we began the tide was what felt like miles away and within just 2 and a half hours we had to end our shift or we would be swimming. To top it off there was only 1 turtle and the poor thing had such a hard time laying her eggs. It took here nearly two times longer than a regular "Lora", Olive Ridley, turtle to lay the eggs and after an hour she was still hard at work. She finally had to call it quits after being hit by a wave and her nest filled with water, but the determined mother was not about to quit. She thoroughly covered her nest with sand despite being bashed by the waves.

As I watched her I began to think. In biology, animals are ranked by how much effort they put into their babies and typically if animals lay eggs and leave them they put more effort than animals that free spawn but less than those who physically care for their young. I think turtles are pretty good mothers and they work so hard for their babies. They clumsy walk out of their natural environment and dig a hole about 40 cm deep with just their hind flippers and afterwards they lay on average 80-110 eggs (some nests are almost 140). They then pack the sand in and attempt to hide the nest and return back to the sea. The female Lora turtles will do this process multiple times each year from the time they are 12 years old all the way into their 40's. That is a lot of babies and a lot of work if you ask me.

At 2 AM after putting the persistent turtle's 78 (average is 80-110) eggs into the hatchery I was ready to lay down and finally get some much needed sleep. However, every time I closed my eyes I heard this weird clicking noise. I couldn’t stand it any longer and I went and turned on the light. There under my bed was a huge crab! Yes so in less than 12 hours I had already had a crab and a bat in my room, boy was I glad my bed was safely enclosed in a princess-like mosquito net.