Saturday, August 11, 2012

Hatchery, Children, Paint and Turtles

Its amazing how much has happened here in just 3 days. I feel like we have barely stopped moving.

Santi and Jon Carlos helping with the fence
Wednesday, we got out in the hatchery again in the afternoon. The plan was to get the last 9 post in the ground and see if you could close the hatchery up. When we got out there we had lots of Tico help, but we were also 3 posts short. Lotti and Erik couldn't make it back to the beach until the following Wednesday to help us cut the posts. So we were told to wait until then or find driftwood on the beach.  Having worked so hard cleaning the almond wood posts and making sure they were the same heights none of us could fathom just putting some random drift wood in and we sure weren't willing to wait a week to finish the hatchery. I mean there are turtles to protect! So we asked around and I was able to pay a local to come out and help Victor cut the last 3 posts. While the last 3 posts were being debarked, everyone else was helping secure the net. As the sun was setting we were able to get all the posts in place and wrap all 30 meters of net around the hatchery, but it still wasn't ready to put eggs in it. We didn’t have a door plus the net was too low so dogs could easily get in and finally there was no grid system in place yet. So left with hopes of finishing and placing the first eggs in on Thursday night.

A little English homework
While saying goodnight to the local kids they turned towards us and instead of saying "buenas noches" they said "goodnight" and "I will see you tomorrow" This of course gives me an idea. I let them know that there are lots of volunteers here that speak English and if they need help on their English homework we would be glad to help. I said this thinking maybe this could be a weekly or bi-weekly thing when the hatchery is finished. Little did I know they had English homework due the next day they had been struggling with. So 10 minutes later we have 5 kids in out kitchen with notebooks ready for Spanish tutoring. Matt and I split the kids and each helped with a couple of assignments and 45 minutes later we were finally able to eat dinner and head out for patrol.

Wednesday night there were no turtles which in a way made me feel better about not finishing the hatchery, but it still sucks patrolling and not having a turtle or even a turtle track.

Paint scrapping is hard work
Thursday morning the PRETOMA truck came and us all up to take us the big town of San Francisco de Coyote, where there is not one but two grocery stores, where we were scheduled to help paint the school. When we got there we were handed paint scratchers and metal sponges to clean and chip away the paint on a 50 foot long wall. We were met there by 4 other PRETOMA personal 2 of which were research assistants for Playa Caletas. One of them was from Portugal and had worked with turtles in Cape Verde and the other was from California. When I asked which part he said "Davis, its just west of Sacramento." I replied that I knew where Davis was I had graduated from UC Davis. As we got to talking we realized not only did we partake in the same graduation ceremony, but also had taken classes together. Small world and it keeps getting smaller.

After a few hours of paint scraping and lunch a local restaurant, we are taken back to Costa De Oro and were back to work on the hatchery. Victor's job make a door. Matt's job paint the sector numbers on the beach. My job with the help of the locals is to finish wrapping the second net around the posts to make it so dogs can't jump in. Well with all the local help it turns into me supervising while the men nail the net up. Afterwards, Kirsty, Laura (English volunteers) and I make the grid system. We calculate we have enough room for a pathway town the middle and about 115 nests. Once again, we work until sunset, but decide it was worth it because the hatchery was finally ready to put eggs in!

We ate dinner and were all anxious to begin patrol. When we got outside we realized the storm was a brewing and we all turned back around and changed into clothes better fitting for the rain. As we walked it is raining so hard its nearly impossible to see two feet in front of you, but we did end up finding a track in the last sector of the beach. As Matt and I looked at the nest bed (which is nearly washed away) we started guessing where the eggs might be. After a bunch of pointing around and a bruised ego (I usually quite good at finding eggs in the first couple tries) we determine d there were no eggs and walked back to the house.

Since turtles like the rain we decided to head back out at 4:00AM to see if we could find some eggs to put in the hatchery. So Matt walked to the south and Victor and I to the north. As we walked we noticed a lot of people on the beach; they too know its good turtle weather. Victor and I walked quicker in hopes to beat them to any possible eggs. Well when we got to the track from the night before I see a guy, his two dogs and a machete pointing around. Victor and I decided to play up the research so he started measuring the track and I took the data book up to the nest bed and started taking notices. We asked  if  there were eggs and he started digging and pulling out eggs. It felt like someone had kicked me. Not only did we have this nest before, this would have been our first nest for the hatchery and I get to witness it getting poached. I couldn't believe I couldn't find it. I just watched silently as he was tossing the eggs out of the hole and into the sand next to him…

He had pulled out maybe 50 eggs before he looked at me and said well aren't you going to put them in YOUR bag. I was stunned, he was giving me the eggs. I thanked him and introduced myself and told him these are the first eggs for the new hatchery!  We walked away with 100 eggs as I replayed the night before in my head and vowed to never make that mistake again. I can't believe how lucky I am.

We radio ahead to the house and woke the other girls up so they could be part of just a momentous occasion. When we got to the hatchery everyone was waiting and cameras were out (one plus to getting the eggs during the morning was we could really document). Everyone looked at me and said "Its your nest, you get to do the honors!"  

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