At first glance it might seem a little unusual that STC is involved in a veterinary clinic in Tortuguero, Costa Rica, as our activities at this site are mainly associated with research. However, in recent years, STC researchers have observed an increase in the number of turtle nests predated by dogs. To reduce the impacts of predation on sea turtle survival, STC collaborates with Tortuguero National Park, veterinarians and other nonprofit groups in the area to host spay/neuter clinics in Tortuguero and the neighboring community of San Francisco. Started in March 2008, the clinics are held over the course of a weekend, with vets visiting both communities for a day. To date, almost 400 animals have been spayed/ neutered, with the majority being dogs as they are responsible for predating turtle nests. The program has been extremely successful and has received fantastic support from community members, with people often waiting with their pets for the vets to arrive in the morning.
In addition to the clinic, an education program is run in conjunction with the vet clinics. The program includes presentations to local schools and hotels to highlight the benefits of spaying/neutering domestic animals, and providing advice on the appropriate care of pets. Many of the children are also keen to observe the vets at work and volunteer to help by collecting dogs off the streets that might not have owners and bringing them to the clinic. The vets love any opportunity to educate children about the potential negative impacts of domestic animals on sea turtles and other endangered wildlife within Tortuguero National Park.
The clinic program has received generous donations from individuals, businesses and communities that have witnessed first hand the damage caused when a dog digs up a turtle nest. The future of the clinic program is dependent on the continued goodwill of our current supporters and new funding sources. STC will continue to be a part of this initiative as it is having a positive impact on the welfare of the domestic animals in Tortuguero which is beneficial to the survival of the regionís sea turtle populations.