Teaming up for sea turtle conservation in Seychelles28-May-2016
The Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change in close collaboration with its conservation partners has been working hard to ensure the long-term conservation of sea turtles in Seychelles.
Some of the partners are the Marine Conservation Society of Seychelles (MCSS), the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF), Nature Seychelles, the Islands Conservation Society (ICS), the Green Island Foundation (GIF) and several private islands such as Cousine, Frégate, Denis, Bird, D’Arros, etc.
Amendment of laws and implementation of tougher, stricter penalties alongside constant presence of environment personnel on key nesting beaches within the main granitic islands have contributed to curb the number of poaching incidences. In addition, good collaborations with other key departments like the Tourism and Marine Police, the Seychelles Fishing Authority, Seychelles (SFA), National Parks Authority (SNPA) and the Seychelles Coast Guard have been immensely helpful in enlarging our monitoring network.
Annually during the sea turtle nesting season (October to March) the Conservation Section intensifies its monitoring and policing on key nesting sites. Over the years, the Department of Environment has broadened its approach to involve school children for educational purposes. Schools which are located close to nesting beaches have always been active in the monitoring programme at the same time helping the department to keep the beach clean and turtle friendly during nesting season. More importantly is the most appreciated help the department receives from ordinary members of the public.
Though a female turtle lays a lot of eggs, very few hatchlings will reach adult hood and from those which survive maybe one will come back to the same nesting site to lay its own eggs.
In this context, the department focuses its efforts to maximise survival of as many hatchlings as possible. Relocating nests to safer location to prevent eggs from being washed away due to coastal erosion is part of efforts to achieve that. Feral animals especially cats and dogs, if left unattended could dig up nests, eat hatchlings and even on occasion injure and kill nesting females. So this is why the Conservation Section constantly advises dog owners to avoid letting their dogs loose on beaches, especially during the nesting periods.
Information gathered during the monitoring are analysed and this helps the department to determine how healthy our turtle population is. With a stable population of hawksbill turtles around the granitic islands due to the significant drop in poaching activities and positive conservation efforts, now the main concerns are pressure from development along the coast, and climate change. These are two important factors since they relate to habitat loss especially nesting sites.
Even if the older generation can still clearly remember the days when harvesting turtles for their meat was an important and an integral part of their lifestyle and thus part of their culture, today more people are aware of the importance of turtle conservation, especially among the younger generation. Public response today is very good towards the protection of sea turtles, and this has been evident through the number of green line calls (2722111) the department receives from the general public. This shows that though a few are still not aware of the importance of protecting and preserving sea turtles, there are a majority that are aware and are willing to help. In this context the department of environment would like to extend sincere gratitude towards them.
Based on these extended collaboration between different stakeholders, the department can now say with confidence that the sea turtle populations around the granitic Seychelles’ islands is stable.
Sea turtles have been fully protected since 1994 under the Wild Animals (Turtle) Protection Regulations. Anyone found guilty of any unlawful action against sea turtles are subject to penalties of R500 000 or two years imprisonment.
Source: NATION 5-28-16