Our Story: a sea turtle conservation and community development project

We saw a growing need for more conservation and education in areas around the beaches predominately preferred by nesting Olive Ridley and Pacific Green Sea Turtles. COPROT Tortugas de Osa was first founded in August 2018 to offer assistance for ecological and community issues. We are an environmental conservation project that primarily focuses on community development and the conduction of research on nesting sea turtles.

Our main headquarters is in Carate, a rural town on the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica. Our camp is settled right before reaching Corcovado National park. Carate is known for its biodiversity, which has led to its popularity as a tourist destination. Development in Carate and surrounding areas in the past 25 years is mainly due to the increase in ecotourism with the construction of eco-lodges. These developments, although financially beneficial for the area, have not increased opportunities for the local people of Carate. 

The nearby beaches of Carate, Rio Oro, and La Leona on the Osa Peninsula are some of the most important sea turtle nesting beaches in the South Pacific. Each beach is close to 2.5 kilometers with approximately 4,000 nests laid by the Olive Ridley (classified Vulnerable by the IUCN) and more rarely the Pacific Green (classified as endangered by the IUCN) sea turtles. These beaches are essential for the protection of our marine wildlife. We lose approximately 25% of nests per annum because of high levels of poaching and predation on turtle nests in the area.

With the continuation of ecologically damaging activities carried out by local people we realized that in order for there to be changes on our beaches we needed to work with the community. We recognized that giving the gold-mining community and other local people the opportunity to work in conservation could solve a number of pertinent issues in the Osa Peninsula. We began recruiting locals in September of 2018. Our local staff started out originally as volunteers and have shifted to becoming salary based workers for COPROT with funds we gain from sustainable tourism and donations from wonderful supporters all around the world. We pride ourselves, our volunteers, and most of all the community in our accomplishments so far. We have obtained permits for beach exploration and conservation at La Leona, Carate, and Rio Oro beaches, all located around the town, Carate.

By providing jobs to former gold miners and educating them on sea turtle conservation they have found purpose in meaningful work and are now proud to be a part of the project. Our project is right in the heart of an area that has long had a history of gold mining. Not only does mining emphasize the idea that illegal activity is okay, but it also takes a toll on the environment and negatively effects the people who work in mining environments. In addition, many people consume the wildlife in the surrounding areas, including turtle eggs. Currently, we have local staff who are trained in scientific data collection who are learning English so that they may soon lead tours to educate others in the harm we can have on the environment. In Carate, we are actively working with the locals to create more jobs, generate knowledge in conservation, and provide a sense of community empowerment.