All five species of sea turtles that occur in the waters of East Africa and the Western Indian Ocean, are considered threatened species according to the IUCN Red List and are a major focus of our conservation efforts. Our sea turtle nest monitoring programs on both Mnemba and Vamizi Islands, which host regionally important breeding sites for Green and Hawksbill Turtles, are approaching significant anniversaries. Early next year, Mnemba’s program celebrates 20 years of continuous nest monitoring, while Vamizi reaches the same landmark in 2022. These are amongst some of the longest, continuously running turtle nest monitoring programs in the Western Indian Ocean, and offer invaluable insights on these iconic and endangered species.
Over the last year we have completed a thorough review of our monitoring protocols and data collection and management practices in order to standardize methods across our three island sites and maximise the use of information collected to date.
A new PhD research project commencing in 2021 aims to better understand how threats impact nesting sea turtles and their habitats at key sites in Mozambique. With increasing impacts from plastic pollution, beach erosion due to rising sea levels and storms, and poaching of eggs and adult turtles for food, some of the key outcomes of this research will be to:
- Develop and refine protocols to better protect nests against beach erosion.
- Understand and mitigate the impacts of plastic pollution on turtle nesting success.
- Document patterns of turtle movements after nesting events to understand their habitat needs
- Work with local communities to understand their perceptions and needs relating to the use and cultural significance of sea turtles at each of our island sites
As iconic species, sea turtles are an important indicator of the health of our oceans and beaches, as well as being a major tourism drawcard. Protecting all species of sea turtles has wide ranging implications for other marine species and habitats.