A non profit organisation, managed by volunteers for volunteers, to protect marine sea turtles in Costa Rica.

Conservation / Volunteers / Sea Turtles / Costa Rica

La tortuga feliz is a non profit organisation, based in Costa Rica, whose aims are the protection of sea turtles with the help of volunteers. The participation of volunteers contributes to the improvement of the living conditions and education of the local inhabitants.

These local inhabitants guard/patrol the beach (Caribbean coast of Costa Rica) together with volunteers, collect the turtle eggs and bring these eggs to a hatchery which is manned by volunteers on a 24 hours basis. Volunteers also participate in the care for and study of recuperating adult turtles in the turtle rescue and rehabilitation centre.

By helping to generate an income for the locals, we hope to take away the necessity for them to poach the turtles and their eggs.

The partnership between the locals and the volunteers helps create an ideal environment for the turtles to lay their eggs.

The project is situated on an isolated Caribbean beach in Costa Rica, 1 km north of the mouth of the Pacuare River. It covers 10 km of coastline and has a total surface of 800 hectares. The beach is part of the 50 km stretch between Tortuguero National Park (famous for its sea turtles) and the harbour of Limón. The area is not only unique in every way, but is also famous as being the nesting site for many Leatherback and Green Sea Turtles who come to lay their eggs here.

The late Paul Lepoutre had the idea to establish an ecotourism project for observing the sea turtles in this area. Together with two Dutch friends (who financed the project) a business plan was created. The ecotourism idea was transferred into a non profit volunteer project. The lease at the beach was organised and Paul started the building of the first cabins. The approach was rather unique and has the special attention and support of various organizations around the world, most notably the World Wildlife Fund.

La Tortuga Feliz is managed by Robert Adeva and his team of enthusiastic international volunteer managers. Since 2006 Robert was the operational manager and after Paul passed away Robert became the president of the foundation.
In support of getting closer to achieving its long term goals La Tortuga Feliz partnered and have fully handed over the administration of the turtle program to the Latin American Sea Turtles in 2011.
LAST is an international scientific network comprised of volunteer Country Co-ordinators (mainly sea turtle experts, natural resource professionals and community based conservationists). They seek to bring the best available science to legislation and policy; to education, training and outreach; to conservation and advocacy and to in situ research and population monitoring.

The collective vision is to realize a future where all inhabitants of the Wider Caribbean Region, human and sea turtle alike, can live together in balance; where healthy populations of sea turtles fulfil their ecological roles and economic potential; and critically natural habitats are sustainably managed.

January 2012 saw the opening of the turtle rescue and rehabilitation centre. Volunteers will be involved with the behavioural study and care of rescued adult turtles as they recuperate in tanks with the guidance of an on-site vet.

The project “La Tortuga Feliz”, in which the majority of the inhabitants of the area participate has the following main objectives:

  • The volunteer project
    Volunteers can help with the realization of the protection of the sea turtles by patrolling the beaches, manning the turlte hatchery together with the local inhabitants and supporting the work of the turtle rescue and rehabilitation centre.The experience of being connected with nature in the way La Tortuga Feliz has organised the activities will contribute to a better world in the future.

  • Local inhabitants
    Providing an income for as many inhabitants as possible through using the locals as guides during the patrols. During these patrols the guides, together with the volunteers watch the sea turtles laying their eggs. After the sea turtle has finished the egg laying process the eggs will be taken by the volunteers and transported to a central hatchery for reburial and study and release when hatched.

The leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) is the most critically endangered of the
marine turtles and is also the largest. Leatherbacks can exceed 540 kg (1180 lbs).
Leatherback turtles are generally not killed by poachers for their meat, which is described
as having a disagreeable texture and flavour. Unfortunately, leatherback turtle eggs are
among the most desirable turtle eggs, mistakenly believed by many to have potent
aphrodisiac powers.

Green turtles (Chelonia mydas) are not actually green but take their name from the colour
of their body fat. These turtles are hunted for both their eggs and their meat, which is
widely held to be the most delicious of all the sea turtle species.

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