03 MARCH 2023

Empowering Costa Rican Students to Save Endangered Leatherback Turtles  

MSC Foundation is providing technical assistance and support for the Together for Turtles programme in Costa Rica, which brings young people in leatherback turtle and environmental conservation.

Focus areas: Education, Environmental Conservation 


Leatherback turtle populations have been in decline for over 20 years. In 1996, the leatherback's global conservation status was changed from 'vulnerable' to ' critically endangered ' on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.


The staff and volunteers at Pacuare Reserve in Costa Rica have been working tirelessly to protect the species for over 25 years, collecting data about nesting trends, populations and nest survival rates. As a result, Pacuare beach is the only beach in Costa Rica that has seen an increase in numbers and is one of the most important leatherback turtle beaches in the world. 


MSC Foundation is a key partner in the Together for Turtles programme in Costa Rica's Limón Province, working together with the implementing partner Ecology Project International (EPI) and MSC Costa Rica and MEDLOG Costa Rica. The programme launched its first phase in 2021, giving young people and communities an active role in leatherback turtle conservation efforts. However, COVID-19 restrictions meant that most of the events took place virtually. The second phase began with face-to-face activities in 2022 and the third phase of the programme is currently being finalised for launch in March 2023. The MSC Foundation is providing technical assistance and support throughout every stage of the programme.


Focussing on developing Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths (STEAM) skills, the programme organisers work with five state high schools, all located in disadvantaged areas of Costa Rica. A total of 172 primarily female students aged between 14 and 19 were selected for the first and second phases of the programme, assisted by a group of 44 international mentors.


Spanish-speaking MSC and MEDLOG employees from Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and Costa Rica then evaluated their work. Ten finalists were selected for each phase, with first, second and third prizes awarded. The students examined various leatherback turtle conservation threats, including pollution, logging and waste management.


As part of second phase of the programme, 32 young people went on a field visit to Pacuare Reserve, where they participated in ongoing EPI research, and 13 MSC and MEDLOG Costa Rica employees attended a session on the 22nd of May 2022, volunteering a total of 117 hours. The tasks completed included beach clean-ups. making nest cover baskets and conducting overnight wildlife surveys.


MSC Foundation Secretary General Marina Anselme commented: "The MSC Foundation is delighted to support this three-way partnership in Costa Rica. The programme is perfectly aligned with our mission, combing environmental conservation, quality education and community support. The impact of the programme will be measured on the EPI's Environmental Literacy Index. A 10% increase on the Global Index is expected for Costa Rica, with similar improvements in the following subcategories among others: Environmental Knowledge, Scientific Competencies, Socio-Emotional Development and Environmental Provisions. We hope this second year of the programme will allow us to go further in our results, consolidating the learning methodology deployed while paving the way for programme scalability in similar locations across the Americas."


About Ecology Project International

Ecology Project International is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering youth to take an active role in conservation through hands-on field science programs. They work with local communities to promote sustainable practices and protect the planet's biodiversity.