One of our experienced Rangers, Joao Gouveia was in Ilha do Maio recently. It was his second visit to the island, the first was made to determine what kind of support was needed. On this three week long trip the objective was to try to stimulate a more cohesive programme of turtle protection that encompasses patrols, data collection and outreach activity.
Maio probably has the second largest population of nesting loggerhead turtles in Cabo Verde and while there are many willing hands, they have very limited resources and training.
Joao reported that his visit was very productive, "from the very start I felt that people really wanted our help and were glad that we were there. Sometimes we did not have the means to do a complete job, but we did manage a four day census of all the beaches, many of which are extremely remote." We now also have a better understanding of the major nesting areas with GPS positions, lengths and nesting suitability factors.
Joao, with the assistance of the Camara Municipal Maio brought together groups of people to participate in camping and patrolling. Socialising and working seriously with the turtles was a very positive experience for everyone. Several workshops were attended by marine biology students, representatives of other NGOs and local community members.
Although it was a very successful trip, there is still a great deal to do. In particular the guards who patrol beaches to deter hunters need more training and more equipment. We hope to be able to enhance this work in 2010 by training and employing a 'local expert' in Maio who will be able to provide support and training.
Joao was representing the newly formed Capeverdian Sea Turtle Network and his trip was funded by the US Fish & WIldlife Marine Turtle Conservation Fund.