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Madagascar villagers vote to protect sea turtles, see first hatchlings

Madagascar villagers vote to protect sea turtles, see first hatchlings

Madagascar villagers vote to protect sea turtles, see first hatchlings
Blue Ventures
July 15, 2008

The first hatching of Green Turtles recorded as a direct result of efforts to protect the species in southwest Madagascar has been witnessed by marine conservationists working for British charity, Blue Ventures Conservation.

In a move unprecedented in southwest Madagascar, residents of the remote village of Lamboara have now voted to protect surrounding beaches, outlawing turtle nest raiding and targeted turtle fishing.

The emergence of 92 live hatchlings marks the success of an awareness-raising campaign launched by Blue Ventures two years ago. This aims to find and protect turtle nests along a 50km stretch of coastline south of Morombe.

“The impact of a small amount of education on the lifecycle and biology of the turtle has been amazing,” says marine biologist Charlotte Gough, campaign co-ordinator. “People here understand their resources are being overexploited, and that they need to do something to preserve them for future generations. The residents themselves put forward the idea of protecting whole beaches during the nesting season.”

Hatchling sea turtles. Courtesy of Blue Ventures

Blue Ventures had been working with the community in Lamboara to guard the nest. A local fisherman reported it after hearing about the organisation’s initiative offering a reward for information on nesting activity.

“This is a really important time for me,” says the beach’s guardian, Lamboaran resident Sosy Kadioke. “When I brought the only two dead hatchlings into the village it was the first time people had ever seen baby turtles.”

The Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) is found in the waters off southwest Madagascar. The adults are targeted by fishermen and the nests are usually raided for their eggs. Turtle meat is also eaten and nesting females are often caught and killed after they have laid their eggs.

“We thought there were no turtles nesting here anymore. But saving this nest has prompted the village to help preserve a species,” says Gough. “Our experience of work in this region is that when one village chooses to do something, others follow. Village presidents from elsewhere are already showing an interest in the turtle project.”

It had been feared that the amount of nest raiding and turtle fishing meant that females were no longer able to reproduce effectively in the area, a situation that may have led to the local extinction of the species. Female Green Turtles return to the beach on which they hatched to lay their own eggs.

Last year Blue Ventures’ work with the neighbouring village of Andavadoaka received the United Nations Development Programme’s prestigious Equator Prize for efforts to conserve local biodiversity and alleviate poverty.

Other marine conservation efforts piloted by Blue Ventures in the region include the creation of Madagascar’s first community-based marine protected area network. This initiative is now being used as a blueprint for the creation of 50 further marine reserves in the country, part of an ambitious African Development Bank-funded marine conservation programme.

Blue Ventures Conservation

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