A thief waits in the darkness. His eyes scan the Nicaraguan beach. Soon, he spots what he is looking for: A sea turtle digging a nest. She begins to lay her eggs in the nest. She falls into a trance. She doesn’t notice the thief.
The thief reaches into the nest and pulls out the eggs, one by one. The turtle mother lays her last egg and uses her back flippers to cover it. She does not know that the nest is now empty. The thief has taken every last egg.
Beaches where sea turtles nest
Olive ridley turtles come to these beaches by the thousands to lay their eggs during arribadas. Arribada means "arrival" in Spanish.
Sea turtles have lived in our oceans for millions of years. But now they are an endangered species. As few as one in 10,000 baby sea turtles will survive to adulthood. They face many threats.
After they hatch, they must crawl to the ocean. But birds and other animals try to eat them. If the babies make it to the ocean, they face predators in the water. Some die in fishing nets. Others eat plastic trash.
Today, all but one of the world’s seven sea turtle species are in trouble. Of the four species that come to Nicaragua to lay their eggs, two are “critically endangered.” They are the hawksbill and leatherback turtles. Green sea turtles are “endangered.” Olive ridley sea turtles are “vulnerable.”
Green sea turtles are an endangered species.
Some female olive ridley sea turtles nest in groups.
The greatest threat sea turtles face is people. People in some cultures eat sea turtle eggs. In Central America, poachers destroy more than 90 percent of the nests on unguarded beaches. The eggs are smuggled into cities to be eaten.
It only takes one poacher to cause a lot of damage. A stretch of coastline may have only a few female turtles. If one person robbed every nest, that person could threaten an entire species.
The demand for the eggs is high. A single egg can be sold for as much as $300. Little is known about the routes poachers use. So, poachers are hard to catch. Risks to the eggs seemed unbeatable. Until one scientist had an idea.
A female sea turtle comes onto a beach.
She digs with her flippers and creates a shallow nest.
The mother turtle lays as many as 120 eggs in the nest.
She covers the nest with sand and returns to the sea.
After several weeks, the hatchlings break through their shells.
The young turtles make their way across the beach to reach the ocean.