Ostional National Wildlife Refuge in Costa Rica welcomes thousands of female sea turtles every year. They arrive on the sea beach to lay their eggs, and Vanessa Bézy, a biologist, has been studying this mass arrival for many years. But it was in November 2016 that Bézy managed to capture on record the largest sea turtle swarm when she was flying her drone along that coastline.
The drone was being used for a study investigating the extended reproduction process of olive ridley sea turtles. Thousands of turtles can be seen in the drone footage, swimming across a region off the Ostional Refuge. Rough estimate seems to be one turtle per square meter, and when the drone ascends further, new turtles keep emerging from the waters.
“I immediately knew there was something special going on. To this day I’m still blown away by the video. They look like bumper cars out there.”
The Ostional Refuge was established in 1983. It is a protected area meant for sea turtles to nest. The vulnerability of this species could well mean this largest sea turtle swarm was the last time so many were spotted together.
A scientific director at the Sea Turtle Conservancy, Florida, Roldán Valverde mentioned how sea turtles swarms are usually photographed on the shore. But this is one of the rare occurrences when they were captured in the open ocean.
Awareness to protect the animals
Bézy is focussed on her study about sea turtles. She wants to raise global awareness about why we need to protect this species. And she hopes this drone footage of the largest sea turtle swarm will further help her reach out. While the olive ridley turtles are widespread in the ocean, they have limited nesting sites across the globe.
Bézy feels the rise of tourism in such sites where the turtles nest further affects the species. According to her, the regulations in place to protect the nesting sites are not adequate. Olive ridley sea turtle hatchlings usually have a very low rate of survival, and most of them don’t make it to adulthood. If humans keep threatening this population, the decline will be accelerated.
Bézy is investigating why and how this huge group of ridleys gather in the Refuge coastline every year, in the months between August and October. Sea currents, beach orientation, and sand type are factors that could help the turtles decide. If the proper reasons are found out, the chance of their survival can be maximized.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature has 6 sea turtles species, including the olive ridley, marked as threatened. Hopefully, this large sea turtle swarm will keep increasing every year and more turtles will fill our oceans.
Image Credit: YouTube/Vanessa Bezy