A mob of eco-tourists in Costa Rica disrupted the annual breeding and nesting of sea turtles on a local beach over the weekend, prompting wildlife authorities to launch an investigation regarding environmental violations.
Hundreds of olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) travel to the Ostional Wildlife Refuge located in Northwestern Guanacaste every year to lay their eggs.
The breeding of the sea creatures this season, however, was disturbed by tourists who were able to access the animal sanctuary. The lowering of water levels brought on by recent droughts allowed them to reach the otherwise inaccessible area.
According to reports, the tourists proceeded to approach the nesting sea turtles and touch them while they were trying to lay their eggs. Some members of the group even took photographs with the animals.
Leonel Delgado, secretary of the Environment Ministry's Workers Union (SITRAMINAE), said that the disturbance caused many of the olive ridley sea turtles to forgo their nesting ritual and head back to the ocean.
Carlos Hernández, administrator of the Ostional Wildlife Refuge, said that he has never seen that number of tourists at the beach, which can be found in the canton of Santa Cruz.
Hernández explained that while visitors can only enter the local beach with a licensed guide, many of the tourists who entered the wildlife refuge did so through illegal access points in different locations.
He said that they will meet with members of Costa Rica's National Police, local associations of tour guides and leaders of the community on how to improve their control of the protected sanctuary.
In a post by the SITRAMINAE on their official Facebook page, the group said that the Secretary of Environment has begun an investigation regarding the incident in order to better control the local eco-tourism that ended up hampering and limiting the natural spawning process of the sea turtles.
Olive ridley turtles are typically found living in the warm, tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, from India to New Zealand. The sea creatures have also been observed in the waters off the western coast of Africa and the eastern coast of South American, particularly in Northern Brazil, Guyana and Venezuela.
This species of sea turtles has been historically considered the most abundant in the world, but recent commercial harvesting has caused the number of the sea creatures to drop significantly.