Green Sea Turtle Program

Tortuguero, Costa Rica, is the most important nesting ground for the green sea turtle in the western hemisphere. And while the government has established a national park to protect that nesting ground, development, tourism, poaching (to sell the eggs), pollution, fishing, and other activities still threaten the species’ survival.

The Oxford Society is helping to protect the green sea turtle and its Tortuguero nesting ground. TOS has funded programs to train turtle guides, offering locals an economic alternative to poaching; study the migration patterns and nesting habits of green sea turtles (read more, below), in order to find ways to protect them throughout their range; and clean and protect the area’s beaches. To raise environmental awareness, we’ve also supported educational programs in the community and local schools.

Green Sea Turtle Nesting Habits

At about 25 years old, female green sea turtles enter their reproductive phase. They travel hundreds, perhaps thousands, of miles to reach the very shores on which they were born, returning year after year to mate and lay their eggs on their natal beach.

Although green sea turtles migrate by the thousands, the nesting process itself is a uniquely individual event. Having previously mated in the waters off her natal beach, a female waits until dark to crawl out of the ocean and lumber up onto the sands. She crawls away from the waterline, searching for dry sand. Artificial lighting, noise, and other distractions can interrupt her progress, causing her to retreat to the sea. If she is able to find a suitable sight, the female will dig a nest in the sand, a laborious process that can take hours. Nearly exhausted from the effort, she then lays her eggs, up to 100 at a time. When she finishes laying, the female covers the eggs with sand, in an effort to conceal them from predators, and returns to the sea.

Females can mate multiple times throughout the nesting season, which runs from June through September. They often dig a new nest within yards’ of their previous nests. The young hatch roughly 60 days later. On their own, they make the long and dangerous journey to reach the water.

A green sea turtle hatchling makes its way to the sea through tracks left by a nesting femaleGreen Sea Turtles