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Of the millions of eggs laid by the endangered olive ridley sea turtles on one Costa Rican beach, few survive both predators and poachers. But how could allowing local villagers to harvest the eggs be a solution?

Dawn on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast and the dark figure of a man at the water’s edge gradually becomes distinct under a pinkening sky. I switch off my torch. Jairo Quiros Rosales and I are the only people to be seen on this broad black beach, the volcanic sands of which stretch north for several miles. Jairo is beckoning, so I hurry down to him, scanning the beach and murky shoreline. As the light grows, I make out the funereal vultures flecking the distance, and assorted mutts appear from the gloom to sniff the night from the sands.

And then I see them: about 100 metres further up the beach, like strange, regularly humped stones, hundreds of olive ridley sea turtles are making their way from the ocean on to the beach to lay their eggs. This is the arribada. It means “the arrival” in Spanish, and I have been waiting more than a month to see it.

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