SOS Tartarugas works in Cape Verde protecting nesting loggerheads turtles (Caretta caretta) and their habitat. Cape Verde is the third most important nesting area for loggerheads in the world. Turtles are at risk from hunting for meat, stealing of eggs, removal of sand for building and unregulated tourism development. Our email is
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Monday, October 4, 2010

The killing fields of Mont Leão

SN = Serra Negra, AL=Algodoeiro, CF=Costa Fragata, ML = Mont Leão
As the nesting season draws to a close, we have time to reflect on both successes and things that did not go so well.  One of the disappointments in 2009 was the number of turtles killed at Serra Negra and one of the main objectives for 2010 was to make sure that this critical beach was well protected.  Happily, despite severe transport issues, (a Landrover that rarely runs, a three year old quad bike and our back up quad bike stolen by joyriders and destroyed), we managed to cover this beach throughout the night and the number of turtles killed was dramatically reduced.

One of the season's last nesting turtles brutally killed on Mont Leão
The story was not so happy on Mont Leão however, an area we used to patrol regularly with the help of the Camâra Municipal who provided a driver.  This year a driver was not available but they did provide some cover with the military.  The number of turtles killed on Mont Leão this year are shocking and are probably not the whole picture - some would have been taken away by pick up and we have found many shells buried.  One of the problems is the lack of suitable habitat since the ground has become rock hard with so many cars driving there, this means the turtles spend a long time ashore looking for a place to lay - giving hunters plenty of time to find them.

Another worry is that more and more turtles are being driven to this beach as the areas further south on Algodoeiro become less and less available because of construction and lighting.  It has been proven that turtles will choose less suitable habitat if their usual beaches are not available.  So while it seems that there are still enough beaches on Sal for turtles, the beach with the best conditions has always been the southwest and the beaches they are now forced to choose are much more hazardous and may not have a very good hatching success rate.

Eggs that were still inside the turtle are taken from the oviduct
Blood drained from the body to be drunk later
In a somewhat random event,  two of our Rangers were unfortunate enough to witness the death, at Mont Leão, of one of the very last turtles of the 2010 season.  The yellow undeveloped eggs, which are the eggs preferred by people on Sal, were being collected and the blood was being decanted into a bottle.  The blood, we are told, is added to wine as an aphrodisiac.

Mont Leão will be a priority for 2011 if we can work out a way to have more reliable transport and how to support more volunteers and soldiers at this beach.

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