Turtle biologists Jim Spotila and Frank Paladino founded The Leatherback Trust in 2000 to engage local communities in protection of nesting beaches critical to saving leatherback turtles. We continue to safeguard nesting beaches and also combat threats to sea turtles in the oceans.


Entry kiosk marks park entrance

Through a donation made by TLT, MINAE opens the information booth that marks the entrance to the National Park.


Drs. Spotila and Santidrián Tomillo publish an edited volume dedicated to leatherbacks

Dr. James Spotila and Dr. Pilar Santidrián Tomillo's edited volume Biology and Conservation of Leatherback Turtles is released.


Longline fisheries impact turtles

Derek Dapp, Randall Arauz, Michael O’Connor and James Spotila publish article documenting extensive capture of olive ridley turtles by Costa Rican longline fishery.

Expanding partnerships

We expanded our educational outreach program within local communities.

Land gift supports conservation at Playa Grande

We receive a donation of new land behind Playa Grande to protect highlands and dry forest habitat near Las Baulas National Park.

Development impacts on Playa Grande documented

John Roe, Patricia Cline and Frank Paladino publish article documenting environmental impacts of beachfront development at Las Baulas National Park.


Lost Years project findings published

Our researchers and collaborating scientists convene the workshop "Tagging through the Stages: Technical and Ecological Challenges in Observing Life Histories through Biologging" at the Biologging IV Symposium in Hobart, Tasmania on March 16, 2011. Proceedings from the workshop, including 10 peer-reviewed articles were published in Marine Ecology Progress Series (Vol. 457, pages 163–301).  

Eastern Pacific hatchling highways published

Our researchers and collaborating scientists publish The Lost Years Project research findings describing oceanographic influences on hatchling dispersal from Playa Grande and other Mesoamerican nesting beaches in Proceedings of the Royal Society Biological Sciences.

Changing climate impacts leatherbacks

Bibi Santidrián and Vince Saba publish articles showing effects of warming climate on leatherback eggs and hatchlings.

N.J. Robinson 2014

Leatherback Trust scientists lead long-term studies

Long-term studies of sea turtle adults, eggs and hatchlings continue on Playa Grande. Our scientists publish 16 scientific articles on their findings.


Dr. Spotila shares extraordinary stories

Dr. James Spotila publishes "Saving Sea Turtles: Extraordinary Stories from the Battle against Extinction".

Bacteria poses risks for hatchlings

A potentially lethal bacteria is discovered on hatchlings at Playa Grande.

Biodiversity studies at Las Baulas National Park

The Leatherback Trust acquires new land for Las Baulas National Park and our scientists expand research efforts within the park to include crocodiles, fish and snails.

Congress maintains Las Baulas National Park status

Congress defers action on the proposed law to downgrade Las Baulas National Park to a wildlife refuge.


Costa Rican voters support conservation

A national poll shows that 89% of Costa Rican voters oppose the proposed law.

Standing up for Las Baulas National Park!

Environmental groups in Costa Rica and around the world show their support for Las Baulas National Park.

Costa Ricans say no, the Park can't go!

Costa Ricans demonstrate support for Las Baulas National Park. Students in front of Congress to protest the proposed law to downgrade Las Baulas National Park.

No way San José!

Environmentally conscious members of Congress members speak out to oppose the President’s plan to downgrade Las Baulas National Park to a wildlife refuge.


TLT doubles down

The Leatherback Trust initiates “Salvemos Baulas” campaign.

President Arias proposes a downgrade

Court orders stop to all building in 500-meter buffer zone of Las Baulas National Park. President Arias proposes a new law to downgrade Las Baulas National Park to a wildlife refuge.


Construction declared illegal

All building permits in Las Baulas National Park are ruled invalid.

© Jason Bradley |

Court validates the Park

Costa Rican Constitutional Court rules that Las Baulas National Park is valid and orders Minister of the Environment to acquire land within the boundaries.

Court rules in favor of the Park

Legal appeals to the Constitutional Court of Costa Rica result in the first of a series of rulings supporting Las Baulas National Park.


TLT team threatened

Additional members of The Leatherback Trust team receive threats.

Leatherback turtle biology journal issue

Frank Paladino and colleagues edit second major journal issue on leatherback turtle biology.

Arias thwarts Park consolidation efforts

President Arias stops land acquisition for Las Baulas National Park.


Developers threaten TLT leader

Frank Paladino receives death threats from developers.

President Oscar Arias takes office

Oscar Arias elected President of Costa Rica on “Peace with Nature” campaign.


Moore support for the Park

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and an anonymous donor put up $4 million for land acquisition in Las Baulas National Park.


Dr. James Spotila publishes sea turtle book

James Spotila publishes “Sea Turtles: A Complete Guide to their Biology, Behavior and Conservation."

Goldring-Gund Marine Biology Station established

Generous donors enable the Leatherback Trust to acquire property on Playa Grande and establish Goldring-Gund Marine Biology Station.

Sea Turtle Festival disrupted

Developers disrupt Sea Turtle Festival, attack The Leatherback Trust and try to discredit our scientists as a means to fight acquisition of land for Las Baulas National Park.

24th International Sea Turtle Symposium

The Leatherback Trust hosts the 24th International Sea Turtle Symposium in San José, Costa Rica.


Nesting studies at Playa Grande commence

Dr. Pilar "Bibi" Santidrián Tomillo begins long-term studies of eggs and hatchlings on Playa Grande.

Community celebrates sea turtles

Elizabeth Vélez and the National Park, with support from TLT, create the Baulas Festival near the end of nesting season to raise community awareness.


Donors make a difference!

With donor support, we are able to fund conservation efforts at Las Baulas National Park. Our scientists publish four more scientific articles on leatherbacks and other sea turtles.


21st International Sea Turtle Symposium

The Leatherback Trust hosts the 21st International Sea Turtle Symposium in Philadelphia.


Alarm sounded: Pacific leatherbacks face extinction!

James Spotila, Frank Paladino and colleagues publish major article in Nature showing leatherback turtles in the Pacific Ocean face extinction.

We become a 501(c)3

James Spotila and Frank Paladino register The Leatherback Trust as a 501(c)3 non-profit.


The Park gets a new Administrator

Marine biologist Rotney Piedra takes over the administration of Las Baulas National Park and confronts the challenges of consolidation with a unified group of park rangers. 

Our researchers make important discoveries

Students complete important studies of leatherbacks at Las Baulas National Park: Barbara Bell on egg development, Jennifer Crim on multiple paternity, and Dana Drake on temperature control over hatchling emergence.

Development pressures mount

Construction continues inside Las Baulas National Park and more plots are designated for future real estate development.


A cool finding

David Penick publishes article showing that leatherback turtle muscle metabolism is temperature independent.

A decent proposal

Frank Paladino and James Spotila request support from major conservation organizations to acquire land and protect Las Baulas National Park from development.


Blurred lines embolden builders

Under additional development pressure and confusion over legal language, authorities fail to enforce boundaries of Las Baulas National Park and stop beachfront construction projects.


Nature publishes article by our researchers

Dr. Stephen Morreale and scientists from The Leatherback Trust publish an article in Nature positing a migration corridor for Eastern Pacific leatherback turtles nesting at Las Baulas National Park.

Las Baulas leatherbacks make a splash

Publication of first major scientific journal volume on leatherback biology and conservation (Chelonian Conservation Biology 2) with articles from studies on leatherbacks conducted in Las Baulas National Park.


Park declared permanent

Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica passes a law to solidify Las Baulas National Park as a permanent entity.


A hot discovery

Christopher Binckley discovers that leatherback turtles have temperature dependent sex determination in the egg. Findings later published in the scientific journal Copeia

Clinton speaks out

President Clinton expresses his support for Las Baulas National Park via the U.S. State Department.

First attempt to downgrade the park

New Minister of the Environment tries to change the Las Baulas National Park into a wildlife refuge to allow development on the beach. Once revealed by the press, public outcry stops the plan.


Improved guide training at Playa Grande

José Quirós becomes Park Director and further improves training for guides.


Guidebooks produced

Cooperative agreement signed between Drexel University and Costa Rican Ministry of the Environment. Professor Albert List produces guidebooks for estuary, forest and beach habitat.

Park HQ built

Students from Drexel University help build Las Baulas National Park headquarters.

Turtles and tourists together

Frank Paladino works with park guides to set guidelines on managing tourists and protecting turtles.

From poachers to protectors

Randall Arauz becomes Park Director and converts poachers into ecotourism guides.


Earthwatch lends support

Frank Paladino begins leatherback project at Playa Grande with support from Earthwatch Institute.

Las Baulas Park established by decree

Presidential Decree established Las Baulas National Park. María Teresa Koberg Gutiérrez becomes first Park Director and begins involving local communities in conservation.


Sea turtle champions in charge

Rafael Calderón elected President of Costa Rica. He appoints Mario Boza as Vice Minister of the Environment and María Teresa Koberg Gutiérrez as Director of National Sea Turtle Program.

Park recommended

Dr. Peter Pritchard, Luis Elizondo, Carlos Rodríguez Santana, Nayudel Guadamuz Rosales, Esperanza Rodríguez, Gerardo Rosales, y Quírico Jiménez write the report “Las Baulas of Guanacaste, a new National Park for Costa Rica” recommending formation of a park to protect the turtles.


Biologists arrive at the beach

Dr. Frank Paladino and Dr. James Spotila begin studies of leatherback biology on Playa Grande and Playa Langosta.

Changing minds

Doña Esperanza Rodríguez, matriarch of a poaching family, becomes a turtle champion.

Scout’s honor

Boy scouts from Costa Rica and Minnesota protect the turtles.


The sea turtle campaign begins

María Teresa Koberg Gutiérrez begins campaign to save sea turtles and stop development of Playa Grande.


Big plans for Playa Grande

Developers plan to build 300 houses and luxury resort for 5000 people with casino, nightclub, hotel, condominiums and yacht club on Playa Grande.


Turtle rodeo at Playa Grande

The 5-year “Wild West” period at Playa Grande starts: People ride turtles and take flash pictures, while poachers take all the eggs.


Leatherbacks on the map at Playa Grande

Renowned sea turtle expert, Dr. Peter Pritchard, discovers leatherbacks nesting on Playa Grande in northwest Costa Rica.