Each year, thousands of olive ridley sea turtles arrive on a 7-kilometer (4-mile) stretch of beach in Costa Rica to lay their eggs in the sand. Earlier this month, however, their mission was thwarted by a throng of disruptive tourists.
A mob reportedly flocked to the Ostional Wildlife Refuge to catch a glimpse of the turtles’ mass nesting onshore, a wildlife phenomenon known as an “arribada.” The Tico Times reported that tourists touched the turtles, stood on top of nests and placed children on top of the animals to take photographs like the one below.
Authorities with the Environment Ministry’s Workers Union said many of the gentle creatures simply returned to sea without dropping off their precious cargo. Sea turtle biologist Vanessa Bézy told The New York Times that she watched from a boat offshore in dismay as the horde overwhelmed security guards.
“I almost had a panic attack because it was so crowded,” said Bézy, who has been studying nesting behavior at Ostional for five years. “It was basically a free-for-all.” Refuge manager Carlos Hernández said visitors are allowed to enter the area with licensed tour guides, but on this occasion, many did so via unauthorized access points. He said officials are planning to improve control over the area to avoid a similar situation in the future.