Sea Turtle Conservation becoming a success story
The New Year 2020 is looking good for us at AMMCO as we began the year with exciting breakthroughs on behalf of our precious marine species that we work to protect.
We are glad to inform you that all your donations have been helpful as we judiciously harness every penny towards protecting the marine megafauna of Cameroon. We are having good records on the species we work to conserve especially with our Manatee conservation program (our focus species); you will find updates subsequently in our newsletters.
Sea turtles (endangered on the IUCN list) are other iconic species that we monitor and protect along the northern coastline of Cameroon with threats ranging from poaching, bycatch to marine pollution resulting in ingestion of plastics etc. All these factors and more have contributed to a great decline in their population, driving them towards extinction. However, we have devised various strategies and measures to combat these threats and protect these endangered species.
We set up a ‘fishermen network’ and hire some of its participants to patrol the beach to monitor nesting sea turtles, conduct opportunistic sightings, and take records. This data will then be made available to important stakeholders to create awareness and for decision making. Other measures include the sensitization of the communities and schools surrounding the beach. These strategies are working though we need to do more, we are getting good results!
On the 4th of January, amidst the celebration of the New Year, our trained fishermen were out on the field carrying out their duties of patrolling the beach; it shows how important they have now considered sea turtles. These fishermen are the type of people who were once a major threat (poachers) to these species, but we managed to win them over to the side of sea turtles and today they are good ambassadors for the protection of these animals.
On that day, one of our fishermen sighted an Olive Ridley sea turtle at the shoreline of Batoke, Cameroon. He reported that the animal could not lay her eggs, before returning to the water. We suspect she could not lay her eggs because of the very high concentration of solid waste at the shore and/or due to the fact that she was disturbed by the torchlight from our fisherman. We, however, will tackle these two cases by creating more awareness of shoreline pollution and proper waste disposal. In addition, in the case of torchlight handling, we will get torch lights capable of illuminating two different lights, the dim red light that can be used when a turtle is sighted, to enable her lay eggs while being protected from poachers and the other bright light for walking the beach when it is dark.
A more interesting occurrence is another observation made by another of our fishermen, Mansa on the 7th of January, this year. He had earlier noticed the incoming tracks of an Olive Ridley sea turtle that night, but could not find the returning tracks. We have trained these fishermen to not just report but also call us for assistance when a situation like this occurs. Mansa immediately reached out to our stand-by staff that stays around the location and they got out as early as 4 am in search of the turtle. We eventually found her stuck in a cassava farm close to the beach by 6 am. We rescued this turtle and released it to the water.
To sum it up, there is this fisherman that used to be the biggest manatee hunter in lake Ossa and has now turned into a conservation hero. For the second time in less than a year, he reported to us 57 African softshell turtle eggs that he had found on a beach of the lake Ossa, so we can secure them from poachers. In the past, he used to collect them for food; today, he is now a protector of turtle eggs. He was rewarded with a crate of 30 chicken eggs to encourage his positive action.
One important point worthy of note is that the sensitization worked, the news is spreading fast and hunters are beginning to convert to conservationists! Just last year 2019, 14 sea turtles were rescued and safely returned to the water and now more are being rescued, all by our fishermen. The sea turtles can now go back to water to perform ecosystem services by maintaining healthy seagrass beds and coral reefs, providing habitat for other marine life, helping other species dependent on them, hence promoting a balanced food web within the ocean ecosystem. We hope to see more of this change in the future.
This success is the result of our environmental education and the SIREN citizen science platform we created along the coast of Cameroon thanks to the support of the National Geographic Society and other sponsors.
You can donate to support this cause to help us do more.