Historical records show that the Loggerheads, Hawksbills, Green, and Leatherback turtles have been nesting on sandy beaches of the West African coastline for centuries. Turtles nest mainly between July and October. The female turtle will come onto the beach and starts building her nest. This takes her between 10 and 15 days. She can lay as many as 100 eggs each time. Eggs will take about 60 days to hatch. If the eggs survive the hatching period, without being stolen by predators or poachers, newborn baby turtles have to make their first incredible dangerous journey to the sea.
Sadly lots of them will not make it.
Cape Verdeans took the protection of their turtles seriously
The island nation of Cape Verde realized that turtles are a much-needed part of the earth’s ecosystem, rather than a slow-moving “lunch box”. Their government made it illegal to kill turtles in 2017. With the rise of environmental education, during the last 6 years number of nests on the islands of Sal, Maio, and Boa Vista has risen from 10 725 to almost 200 000. During nesting season hundreds of members of local NGOs patrol about 180 km of beaches, day and night. Thanks to applying new legislation that criminalizes hunting and consumption, the poaching rate dramatically dropped from 8.25% in 2015 to 1.54% in 2020.
Can poachers become guardians?
Another step in the conservation program which is a great help is the punishment for poachers. In 2018 new environmental laws got a green light. Poachers are often sentenced to work long community service hours. They have to follow around NGO workers and aid in a conservation program. This allows them to change their point of view on sea turtles. Some realize that they are so much more than just their “paychecks” and that is important for all of us to preserve their existence.
photo credit: Pixabay