The Osa In-water project is located in Playa Blanca on the Dulce Gulf of the Peninsula Osa, South Pacific of Costa Rica. The region is one of the 25 biodiversity hotspots of the world including the Dulce Gulf, which is one of the 4 tropical fiords worldwide. Surrounded by different kinds of beaches, mangroves & estuaries it creates unique habitats for permanent and migratory species. More than 40 different fish species, as well as dolphins, whales, whale sharks and sea turtles thrive in various ecosystems of the Gulf. The Osa Peninsula hosts a large variety of tropical ecosystems, providing habitats to numerous animals like scarlet macaws, monkeys, sloths, wild cats and other wildlife, and countless tropical plants. A truly lush nature that still needs to be explored and researched is awaiting volunteers, to turn conservation work into a really exceptional experience!
On Playa Blanca, our work focuses on Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) and Easter Pacific Green turtles (Chelonia mydas). We carry out in-water studies and operate a rescue and rehabilitation center, which has opened its doors at the end of 2011. Since then we have received more than 100 sea turtles, which we could rehabilitate and afterwards release back into the wild. Most of the turtles suffered different traumas or epibionts. Although Olive Ridleys (Lepidochelys olivacea) don’t forage in the Golfo Dulce, this is still a transit area for them. This is why we also treat this species when it is needed. Our rehab procedures and installations follow international best practices and provide us with 9 tanks for sea turtles. Our plan for the future is to include a hospital area to enhance veterinarian treatments.
The in-water studies consist of monitoring the feeding habitat used by sea turtles in different life stages to collect data about population structure, genetic origin, health status and in-water habitat use. This will help us to assess the types of threats that sea turtles are exposed to in this area. We capture individuals, tag them, take biometric data, tissue and sometimes blood samples and release them back to the ocean.
Since mangroves play an essential ecological role for coastal ecosystems and therefore for sea turtles, we have implemented a mangrove reforestation project in Playa Blanca together with a local grassroots organizations, in our conservation activities. In the long term this will improve the health status of mangroves and water quality in the area.
Another important but vulnerable ecosystem are the off shore sea grass beds, on which sea turtles and other marine animals feed, and which provide a living habitat for a wide range of organisms and small marine species. In 2013, LAST started to conduct sea grass bed studies near Playa Blanca to gain knowledge about the health status and biomass production. We found two species of sea grass which are essential in their contribution to a healthy ocean – the main condition for maintaining its biodiversity.