On World Spay Day 2015, medical volunteers from VIDA Volunteer Travel spayed and neutered over 20 dogs in the Tortuguero community for free, with support from STC. The overpopulation of stray dogs and pets in Tortuguero, Costa Rica can be dangerous for the local sea turtle population.
In Central America, it is common for many communities to permit their domesticated dogs and cats to run free in coastal villages. These dogs, left unattended, can dig up several sea turtle nests in one night. With as few as one in 10,000 eggs reaching adulthood, the destruction of only a few nests can have a devastating effect on any sea turtle population. Dogs eat the eggs and hatchlings and, in some cases, can even attack adult females while they nest.
Predation is not only a problem for sea turtles and their hatchlings in Central America, but also around the world. Crabs, raccoons, boars, birds, coyotes and sharks all play their role in the natural food chain as sea turtle predators. However, the threats of predation increase when human development reaches nesting beaches. People who leave trash near the shore, for example, unwittingly call raccoons and other non-native species to the beaches to look for food.
Nest predation can be a very serious threat. In certain “predation hot spots” on nesting beaches in the United States predation can exceed 50% of all nests laid. While sea turtles have developed special adaptations that allow them to be agile in water, they remain clumsy on land. They are not fast enough, or agile enough to escape these predators. Unable to retract their heads and flippers into their shell, like land tortoises, sea turtles are very vulnerable to these invasive predators.
Humans can play a vital role in decreasing the threat of invasive species predation. Here are a few ways you can help protect the sea turtles.
Take a closer look at the hard work and dedication of the medical volunteers participating in World Spay Day 2015!