Watching a turtle lay her eggs at Monterrico should be a memorable experience, but the presence of the local hueveros (egg collectors) may ensure that it’s not. In season, Baule beach is patrolled by sentries scanning the waves for turtles. After a turtle comes ashore and lays its eggs, these poachers delve straight into the nest. Most foreign witnesses are content to take a photo before the turtle claws its way back to the ocean (note that you shouldn’t use flash photography as it can upset and disorient the turtles). Braver souls who have challenged the hueveros have been threatened with machetes.

Officially the taking of eggs is outlawed, but an informal deal has been struck so that out of every clutch of eggs collected, a dozen are donated to the reserve’s turtle hatchery, from where thousands of baby turtles are released each year. This agreement is designed to ease relations between the local community, who sell the eggs for US$2.50 a dozen, and the conservationists. The ethics may be debatable, but some visitors buy entire clutches from hueveros (most of whom are extremely poor) and donate these eggs to the CECON hatchery.

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