It was a pleasure to be invited to Sao Nicolau to participate in two training camps to give information on how tag turtles and collect data. The activities were arranged by INDP (Fisheries institute) via the two Camara Municipals. INDP have been working in Sao Nicolau for several years with the objective of creating turtle conservation programmes that are in the hands of the community. This approach is very different from our project in Sal where, for several reasons, we have found it much harder to engage the communities. In the area around Tarrafal the Camara Municipal pays guards to stay at the beach to deter hunting and monitor nests and on the eastern side, the other CM is starting to mobilise volunteers.
The programme really works, with hunting now a very limited problem, but unfortunately, the big problem is the destruction of beaches and loss of habitat. Many of the beaches have been completely stripped of sand for construction, which means the turtles are concentrated in small and often unsuitable beaches. We stayed at two beaches, Porto do Lapa in the east and Baixo Rocha in the west and it was fantastic to meet so many people who are motivated to save turtles in their island. Beach access is much more difficult than on Sal and guards have to hike or go by boat to get to work. All that is needed now is a bit of training and some equipment and support. Our trip was on behalf of the newly formed Capeverdian Sea Turtle Network, with a grant from US Fish & Wildlife Service with logistical support by the Camara Municipals from Tarrafal and Ribeira Brava.