Field research was conducted, from 1990 to 2004, at Gandoca Beach (9°59.972′N, 82°60.530′W), located within the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge at the southernmost extreme of the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. Nightly patrols of the 8.85-km nesting beach were undertaken annually from the second week of February through the last week of July, and pertinent information regarding the nesting process was recorded. An estimated 90% of all nesting females were documented and uniquely tagged; these 2751 females deposited 8766 nests (believed to be a complete count). Averaged over the 15-year study period, 12.5% of all nests were left unaltered in situ; 12.9% were left in situ, with tracks camouflaged by beach patrollers; 33.9% were relocated to lower risk zones on the beach; and 25.4% were relocated to beach hatcheries. Poaching, which had once claimed nearly 100% of all eggs laid, averaged 15.5% annually during the study period, demonstrating a clearly declining trend, attributable to the presence of beach patrollers, policies associated with the wildlife refuge, and changing attitudes within proximal communities. A comparison of tag registries indicates an interchange of gravid females among nesting beaches both within Costa Rica and internationally with Panama and Colombia. The interchange reinforces the importance of joint efforts to address primary threats, including beach erosion, egg poaching, direct harvest of adults for meat (especially in Panama), and coastal development. The population is statistically stable but shows a steadily declining trend in the number of nests laid since 2000.
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Vol. 6 • No. 1