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Conservation & Research

Photo: María José Guzmán


Pacuare Reserve is the homeland of tens of animal species. Pacuare Reserve’s Beach is one of the most important beaches in the world for the nesting of Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea). Besides, it is surrounded by a dense forest of 688.6 hectares. In this land, the vegetation was used for timber or for cattle feed, but now is a protected area that works as home for a big diversity of wildlife: diverse species of mammals as jaguars and ocelots, three species of monkeys and reptiles (three species of sea turtles included)

The reserve also has habitats like beach, forest and wetlands that host a great diversity of birds. By this time, there are 253 listed species including a rare and beautiful Agami Heron that nest in a small lagoon located in the reserve which is the only registered nesting site between Mexico and the Northern area of Colombia. This place is one of the few that can be accessed worldwide.

30+ species

of mammals

253 species

of birds

20 species of amphibians

40 species

of reptiles

Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program

Pacuare Reserve has been working for 34 years on Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) protection and collecting data on the nesting tendencies, population status and nest survival. In Central America Caribbean (Pacuare Reserve nesting beach included), the colony of Leatherbacks is one of the four bigger remaining in the world together to Surinam, Gabon and Trinidad (Troëng et al., 2004).  The program for conservation and research on Sea turtles (PCITM, for its acronym in Spanish) also monitors Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas.)

The 6 km (3,72 miles) of seashore are walked by the researchers’ assistants, volunteers and groups of students every night during the nesting season and during the time the eggs are hatching (from the end of February up to October) during their visit to the reserve. Each night, they walk the beach in three different turns from 8pm up to 4am for reptile monitoring.

Also, during the morning, there is a counting to check if new activities are needed or if hatchlings have emerged. The censuses are performed in groups from the research stations one in the North and other in the South.

Research assistants are trained at the beginning of the season with theory and practices to warranty standardized collection of data. During the season there are different sessions to check protocol achievement and to correct differences between the stations. Security guards are also present guarding the two ends of the beach to protect people and nesting process.



Claudio Quesada, Research and Conservation Coordinator for Pacuare Reserve, was recently featured on NPR's Here & Now program to discuss and celebrate the history of Pacuare Reserve's efforts to safeguard sea turtles. Press play to listen to their interview, and find the full article and photos here!

Program Objectives

General Objective

To stablish an integral strategy for sea turtles’ conservation at Pacuare Reserve that defines and develops actions in the nesting area of these reptiles and the buffer zone to generate research that includes all the actors involved using the environmental education.

Specific Objectives

  • To encourage actions to diminish or eliminate the threats towards sea turtle conservation on the beach at Pacuare Reserve.

  • To monitor the reproduction habitat of the sea turtles by diurnal and nocturnal census based on data collection and environmental education to promote the generation of information needed to develop better management techniques, and the development of conservation strategies. 

  • To collect temperature and humidity data in the natural and relocated nests to determine the potential sources of mortality in different species of sea turtles during their life cycle and the contact with the nesting beaches.

  • To know physical characteristics of the nesting area of the sea turtles at Pacuare beach by describing the morphological changes of the dunes through time. 

  • To stablish actions to share knowledge with local communities of Pacuare Reserve about the biological processes involved in the reproduction of the sea turtles in the nesting beaches.


The research method includes:

  • Tagging of turtles with external metallic tags and internal PIT Tag Microchips (integrated passive transponders).

  • Biometric data collection (length and wide of the shells).

  • Revision of damage or injuries.

  • Egg counting and the decisions of their destination: keeping them in the original nest “in situ" where the sea turtle spawned or "being relocated" to a different and safer spot on the beach.

Censo nocturno Eduardo Rodríguez Romano.jpg

Some researchers have used the Reserve for their investigations. Marga López Rivas is one of them, who developed doctoral studies for three years. She published about the effect of the artificial lights in the ability of the hatchlings to find their way to the sea, effects of dunes caused by beach erosion on leatherback nesting behavior or nesting ecology and the population tendencies of the sea turtles in Pacuare.

The Reserve has participated in publications of studies in which we have collaborated with institutes and researchers.


Our hatchery

Photo: Batsú Estudio

In 2016, Sean Williamson from Monash University in Australia, being supervised by Richard Reina, studied the effect of oxygen in the leatherbacks’ eggs as part of his doctoral studies. Besides that, there are scientific publications related to the effect of the Pandemic of the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID 19) virus in the research, conservation and environmental education program of The Reserve, the publication participated globally, and 160 authors collaborated in it.

Since 1991, when beach monitoring was standardized, we have recruited from 8 to 14 research assistants each season, to help with all the data collection of the follow up of sea turtles  program. All these efforts combined have reduced the egg poaching rate (0.2%).

Felines and
Preys Program

Pacuare Reserve protects 688.6 hectares, and it is located in the lowlands at Central-Northern areas of Costa Rican Caribbean, so it is possible to watch wildcats, especially Jaguar (Panthera onca). To understand better the conservation needs in felines and their preys, Pacure Reserve has been monitoring with camera traps since 2018. The project also includes ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) and pumas (Puma concolor).

This Project begun with the collaboration of an expert group of Panthera and Coastal Jaguar Conservation, but since 2021 we have worked completely independent and together we have identified many key priorities to develop in a near future, such as:


  • To estimate the current density of jaguar population and other wildcats, also, the density of population of their preys.

  • To estimate the abundance of other mammals in the area.

  • To understand the biological corridor used by the jaguars and to propose actions to protects them.

Foto de jaguar 1 - Isabel Troyo(1).jpeg

Photo: Isabel Troyo

Program Objective

One of the main objectives of the program is to describe the different eating and migratory behaviors, to know the size of the different populations of felines and their preys. All this to provide pertinent information to the authorities who oversee the decisions for the conservation of the wildlife.

Our Methods

Pacuare Reserve has installed a group of camera traps in areas with a high probability of presence of jaguars or their preys. The research assistants check the devices constantly and download the photos and videos to analyze later the information with researchers and students

Monkey Population Ethology Program

The Reserve houses 3 species of monkeys: White-faced Monkey (Cebus imitator), Howler Monkey (Alowatta palliata) and Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi). These three populations are monitored by researchers and visitors. The social learning is a complex cognitive phenomenon related to the learning process and the knowledge transmission, and this program pretends to describe the different behaviors and the social learning process that different species show.

The efforts of conservation of the Costa Rican Caribbean primates are particularly difficult because there is not scientific information of ethology and migration. That is why the research on primates in Pacuare Reserve is critical in a special way for future efforts of conservation.


Program Objectives

  • To describe the main behaviors of each species of primates.  

  • To describe each troop that inhabits the reserve.

  • To know the migratory routes of each troop.

  • To describe the diet of each species of primates.

Monitoring Program of The Nesting Colony of Agami Heron

Since 2004, Pacuare Reserve has been saving data about the nesting population and the reproduction of a colony of the Agami Heron (Agamia agami). The monitoring and conservation of this population is critical because it is the only nesting place known in the Costa Rican Caribbean. Three times a week, our researchers and visitors walk to the nesting place and start with the data taking separated from the heron's area by a net where they camouflage to avoid the interference of the regular natural behavior of the species.

Agami Heron is consider the most beautiful of the herons mainly because of the color they present during the reproductive time season.

Purpose of the research:

To provide permanent and prompt information about the unique nesting colony of Agami Heron (Agamia agami) between Southern Mexico and Northern Colombia for a beneficial decision-making management that can also benefit this species.


Photo: Juan José Pucci

Program Objective

  • To monitor the colony to know the number of nests annually, hatching success (percentage of embryos which were born) and number of chicks per year.

  • To document the threats for the nesting population.

  • To provide recommendations to diminish that impact.

  • To measure and know the impact of human visitation in the behavior of the species.

Our Methods

We visit the site 3 times during the day and once at night weekly with a maximum of 10 people per research group.


  • The approaching to the site is in full silence (from 100 meters before de observation site).

  • Taking photographs using flash is not allowed late in the afternoon or night.

  • Current nests, number of eggs, number of pigeons and adults’ characteristics are registered in the place where they are together.

  • Information collection of all the activities performed.

  • Visitors can participate of the collection of information following an observation protocol.

Research opportunities  

At Pacuare Reserve we have long term monitoring projects, facilities and support for researchers and students with independent investigations. Click in the taps to obtain more information.

Research Assistants
(Self-funded position)
Independent Research
Monitoring of Climate Variables
at Pacuare Reserve

In collaboration with the National University of Costa Rica (UNA), Pacuare Reserve is monitoring atmospheric physicochemical variables through a meteorological station. Our joint effort aims to conduct climate studies and make predictions by monitoring 38 different variables, including temperature, wind speed and direction, rainfall, solar radiation, and evapotranspiration, among others.

To view the real-time meteorological data from Pacuare Reserve, please visit the following links:

2023 Sea Turtle Stats

Here you will find the Sea Turtle Monitoring Program Stats in Infogram

Click here to navigate

the slideshare

Sea Turtle Reports

Here you will find the Sea Turtle Monitoring Program season reports of Pacuare Reserve 

Sea Turtle Monitoring Program
2022 Season report (Spanish)

 Pacuare Reserve

Sea Turtle Monitoring Program
2017 Season report (English)

 Pacuare Reserve

Sea Turtle Monitoring Program
2016 Season report (English)

 Pacuare Reserve

Sea Turtle Monitoring Program
2013 Season report (Spanish)

 Pacuare Reserve

Sea Turtle Monitoring Program
2012 Season report (Spanish)

 Pacuare Reserve

Sea Turtle Monitoring Program
2011 Season report (Spanish)

 Pacuare Reserve

Sea Turtle Monitoring Program
2010 Season report (English)

 Pacuare Reserve

Sea Turtle Monitoring Program
2009 Season report (English)

 Pacuare Reserve

Sea Turtle Monitoring Program
2008 Season report (Spanish)

 Pacuare Reserve

Sea Turtle Monitoring Program
2007 Season report (Spanish)

 Pacuare Reserve

Sea Turtle Monitoring Program
2006 Season report (Spanish)

 Pacuare Reserve

Sea Turtle Monitoring Program
2005 Season report (Spanish)

 Pacuare Reserve

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