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 info@turtlesos.org.
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Friday, December 21, 2012

Cinco Dias Para Salvar Ponta Preta! Five Days to Save Ponta! Preta

Stop the breakwater!  Pare a quebra-mar! 

Send your comments to / Envie seu comentario para 
Antes de 26 Dezembro 2012.   

Sou contra a proposta INTERVENÇÕES PARA MELHORIA DAS CONDIÇÕES
BALNEARES submetido pelo Melia Llana Beach, pelas seguintes razões:
1. Eu não quero ver o mar (praia) de Algodoeiro torna-se um Gueto turistico, com praias privadas.
2. Estou preocupada com o impacto ambiental, em particular com as tartarugas marinhas.
3. Estou preocupada com a formação das ondas da mundialmente famosa praia de Ponta Preta.

I object to the proposal INTERVENÇÕES PARA MELHORIA DAS CONDIÇÕES BALNEARES submitted by Melia Llana Beach for the following reasons:
1. I do not wish to see Algodoeiro become a tourist ghetto, with  'private' beaches.
2. I am concerned about the impact to the environment, particularly to marine turtles.
3. I am concerned about the disruption of the world famous break at Ponta Preta.


Download the full proposal here.


O Quebra-mar no Algodoeiro pode beneficiar turistas mas teria um grande impacto nesse ecossistema.

Os planos de construir um quebra-mar do The Resort Group / Melia Llana Beach no Algodoeiro (na Costa Oeste do Sal), como propósito de  melhorar a natação para os turistas nos seus três hotéis. Algodoeiro tem uma camada das pedras que ficam descobertos na maré baixa uma ou duas vezes por dia, para nadar os turistas tem que atravessar as pedras andando.
O projeto envolve a construção de dois quebra-mar perpendiculares a linha da costa, para criar uma praia no meio. Boatos afirmam que o custo desse projecto é de €3.000.000 Euros (mais o custo da manutenção períodica). No plano inicial foi considerado cercar a área mais larga e incluindo a dragagem de 3000 m² mar a dentro.
 A figura a seguir é o projecto final que foi apresentado para avaliação pelo Direcção Geral do Ambiente e outras autoridades.

Como parte do plano as rochas no fundo do mar serão removidos (possivelmente utilizando explosivos). Como mostrado na figura o quebra-mar será construído em seguida.  Uma vez que a areia irá acumular nos lados exteriores do quebra-mar e não dentro, a areia nessa praia será reposta artificialmente – importando-a  ou procurando-a em outras partes da ilha.


O estudo foi concluído pelo WW – Consultores em Hidráulica e Obras Marítimas S.A. em nome do The Resort Grupo /Melia Llana Beach entre Julho e Setembro de 2012 e constatou vários impactos negativos e positivos do projecto.

Impactos positivos incluem condições mais confortáveis para natação para visitantes, alguns extras, como trabalhos temporários e a criação de um recife artificial (substituindo o recife natural existente). Contudo, outros aspectos podem ser bastante negativos em relação ao projecto, tais como:
1.     Não foi determinado a posição e o tamanho exacto da proposta do quebra-mar.
2.     A perturbação na praia durante a fase de construção. A proposta inclui fechar uma parte da praia, máquinas pesadas que farão muito barulho e poeira.
3.     O tempo e ou comprimento das obras propostas não foram incluídos no documento.
4.     O impacto no movimento da areia (construindo na parte norte do quebra-mar e não repondo na parte sul).
5.     A necessidade de repor a areia no interior do quebra-mar com areia de outra área como consequência pode mudar o ecosistema da costa.
6.     A destruição da vida marinha que atualmente vive na área das rochas ou nas rochas.
7.     Um impacto na acção das ondas que pode interromper a prática de surf, windsurf e kitesurf na praia mundialmente famosa de Ponta Preta.
8.     O tempo limitado (3 meses) de pesquisa e estudos não é suficiente para entender os impactos a longo prazo.
9.     O impacto nas tartarugas Caretta caretta mais conhecidas como cabeçuda, (uma espécie em perigo e mundialmente protegida) incluindo a perturbação da praia durante a época de nidificação (barulho, luz e obras) e as paredes impedindo-as de sair do mar para a desova.
10.  Esta zona faz parte das Áreas Protegidas de Cabo Verde (PCSAPCV), este tipo de projecto não é permitido pelo plano de administração.

Naturalmente para a SOS Tartarugas, a maior preocupação é sobre o impacto para as tartarugas. Por alguma razão, não foram usados dados ou relatórios desta organização, que tem seis anos de experiência e monitorando a ecossistema do Algodoeiro,  na preparação da proposta do quebra-mar.

A proposta afirma que a área não é importante para as tartarugas, dessa forma “o local fica fora das áreas preferenciais para nidificação de tartarugas por incompatibilidade entre os fundos rochosos. A espécie só nidifica em lugares arenosos e sem obstáculos rochosos para facilitar a saída e entrada dos adultos e a entrada dos juvenis.”  O mapa do Sal foi incluído na proposta. Este mapa é o mapa de áreas de nidificação mas ele é usado pela Câmara Municipal do Sal e a SOS Tartarugas para definir os principais pontos de monitoramento (postos dos soldados, acampamentos, etc) que é importante para a impedir a caça de tartarugas.
Infelizmente os autores da proposta interpretaram o mapa de forma errada  e acreditam que as tartarugas SO colocam seus ninhos nos pontos amarelos enumerados.
“Conforme pode ser verificado na figura abaixo, que apresenta as zonas da ilha do Sal onde existe prevalência de desova de tartarugas, que a zona em estudo não se encontra incluída nas áreas utilizadas por esta espécie para efeitos de nidificação. Neste sentido, torna-se seguro afirmar que a zona do projecto é uma zona de pouca ou nenhuma influência das tartarugas marinhas, não é utilizada para nidificação das mesmas pelo facto de ser uma zona com bastantes rochas na praia e, por isso, o projecto em análise não terá impacto negativo sobre essa espécie. Pela observação da figura abaixo percebe-se que a zona do projecto situa-se entre os pontos 4 e 5, pontos estes identificados como áreas de desova.”

É de grande preocupação que os consultores passaram todo o verão no Sal e não contactaram a SOS Tartarugas, ou usaram os relatórios e documentos científicos que foram entregues ao The Resort Group / Melia Llana Beach, sobre zona de desova e o impacto do desenvolvimento. O resultado disso é que essa área não foi respeitada como uma das mais importantes para nidificação das tartarugas, o que é caso.

Em baixo podemos ver uma situação real (a proposta da construção é em frente ao quadrado vermelho)
Os pontos coloridos representam áreas das actividades de tartarugas ao longo desses últimos cinco anos. Podem ser vistos mesmo em frente a praia onde se encontra o complexo de Melia Llana e onde situa a proposta do quebra-mar e que há um numero significativo de ninhos.

Neste relatório fica explicito que a falta de conhecimento sobre o comportamento e a biologia das tartarugas cabeçudas, fazendo com que as suposições estejam erradas por duas razões:
1.     Não é importante se as rochas ficam expostas ou não na maré baixa, as tartarugas saem para praia quando a maré esta alta.
2.     As tartarugas não saem do mar e desovam em frente a onde saíram. Elas podem andar na diagonal ou de forma aleatória muitas vezes escolhendo um lugar para desovar longe do ponto onde saíram na praia.

Algodoeiro é um lugar unico para as tartarugas no Sal, tem um ecosistema diferente das outras praias. Alem disso, um estudo genético afirma que as tartarugas dos ninhos desta costa tem uma composição diferente dos das outras praias.  Portanto, não é suficiente declarar que as tartarugas vão encontrar outras áreas, a questão é mais complicada que isso.

A própria proposta afirma que o projecto não deve “Causar danos ou destruição das sensíveis áreas ambientais” ou “não envolve extinção de nenhuma das nossas espécies com estatuto de protecção especial”. Contudo parece que o projecto vai criar alguns impactos negativos muito sérios. Em ambos esses casos devemos ir em frente?

Tendo em conta que o próposito desse projecto é permitir que os turistas entram no mar durante a maré baixa, parece haver um desequilibrado quanto ao enorme preço a pagar, se tivermos em conta tanto o dinheiro como os impactos ambientais.

O período de consulta do projecto termina em 27 de Dezembro de 2012. Por favor envie email para expressar seu apoio ou preocupação, email Maria.R.Soares@mahot.gov.cv ou Moises.Borges@mahot.gov.cv ou deixe seus comentários na Biblioteca Munícipal Jorge Barobosa em Espargos.

5 Days to save Ponta Preta


Stop the breakwater!  Pare a quebra-mar!  

 Send your comments to / Envie seu comentario para 
Antes de 26 Dezembro 2012.   

Sou contra a proposta INTERVENÇÕES PARA MELHORIA DAS CONDIÇÕES
BALNEARES submetido pelo Melia Llana Beach, pelas seguintes razões:
1. Eu não quero ver o mar (praia) de Algodoeiro torna-se um Gueto turistico, com praias privadas.
2. Estou preocupada com o impacto ambiental, em particular com as tartarugas marinhas.
3. Estou preocupada com a formação das ondas da mundialmente famosa praia de Ponta Pret.

I object to the proposal INTERVENÇÕES PARA MELHORIA DAS CONDIÇÕES BALNEARES submitted by Melia Llana Beach for the following reasons:
1. I do not wish to see Algodoeiro become a tourist ghetto, with  'private' beaches.
2. I am concerned about the impact to the environment, particularly to marine turtles.
3. I am concerned about the disruption of the world famous break at Ponta Preta.


Download the full proposal here.

Breakwater on Algodoeiro may benefit tourists but could have a big impact on the environment.

The Resort Group plans to build a breakwater on Algodoeiro (the west coast of Sal), the purpose of which is to improve swimming for tourists at their three hotels.  Algodoeiro has a layer of rocks that are uncovered at low tide meaning that once or twice a day, to be able to swim there tourists must walk across the rocks.

The project involves the construction of two breakwaters perpendicular to the coastline, creating a beach in the middle.  It has been rumoured that the cost of such a plan is €3,000,000 plus ongoing maintenance costs).  The initial plan that was considered enclosed a much larger area and and included dredging a 3000m2 area of the seafloor.

The final plan that has been submitted for assesment by the General Directorate of the Environment and other authorities, is shown below. 


As part of the plan, the rocks under the sea will be removed (possibly by using explosives).  The breakwaters will then be built as shown  Since the sand will accumulate on either side of the breakwater and not inside, the beach must be replenished by artificial means - either by importing it or by finding a source from another part of the island.

The study was completed by WW-Hydraulic Consultants and Construction Maritime SA on behalf of The Resort Group between July and September 2012 and looked at the various negative and positive impacts of such a project.

The positive impacts include more comfortable swimming conditions for visitors to Sal, some extra, temporary jobs and the creation of an artificial reef (replacing the existing natural reef).  However, other aspects could be quite negative and concerns about this project include:

1.     The exact position & size of the proposed breakwater has not been defined.
2.     The disruption to the beach during the construction phase.  The proposal includes closing a section of the beach and heavy machinery will create noise and dust. 
3.     The length or timing of the proposed works have not been included in the document.
4.     The impact on the movement of sand  (building up on the north side of the breakwater and not replenishing on the south).
5.     The need to replenish the sand inside the breakwater with sand from another area thereby changing the ecology of the coast.
6.     The destruction of the marine life that currently inhabit the rocky areas.
7.     An impact on the wave action that may disrupt surfing, windsurfing & kitesurfing in the world famous beach of Ponta Preta.
8.     The consultant's limited study time (3 months) may not be sufficient to understand the long term impact.
9.     The impact on endangered and protected loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta including disruption of the beach during the nesting season (noise, lights & obstructions) and the walls preventing them exiting the sea to lay their nests.
10.  This zone is part of Cape Verde's network of Protected Areas (PCSAPCV) and this kind of project is not permitted under the management plan.

Naturally, for SOS Tartarugas, the biggest concern is about the impact to the turtles.  For some reason, no data or reports from this organisation, which has six years experience of monitoring the ecology of Algodoeiro, has been used in the preparation of the breakwater proposal.  

The proposal states that the area is not important for turtles as  "the location is outside the preferred areas for nesting turtles since it is rocky.  The species only nests in sandy places and without obstructions to facilitate the exit of adults and the entry of juveniles. "   A map of Sal has been included in the proposal.  This map is nota a map of nesting areas but is a map which is used by the City Hall of Sal and SOS Tartarugas to define the main monitoring points (soldier's stations, camps etc) that are important for the prevention of hunting of turtles.


Unfortunately the authors of the proposal have misinterpreted this map and believe it to mean that the turtles ONLY nest exactly at the yellow numbered dots.

"As can be seen in the figure below, which shows the areas of the island of Sal where there is prevalence of turtle nesting, the zone under study is not included in the areas used by this species for the purpose of nesting.
In this sense, it is safe to assume that the project area is an area of ​​little or no influence of sea turtles, it is not used for nesting by the same fact that a zone with enough rocks on the shore and therefore in the project will have negative impact on this species.  By observing the figure below it can be seen that the project area is located between the points 4 & 5, these points identified as spawning areas. " 

It is of great concern that the consultants spent the summer in Sal and did not contact SOS Tartarugas or make use of the reports & scientific papers which have been submitted to The Resort Group about the nesting zone and the impact of development.  This has resulted in the significance of this area to nesting turtles not being taken into consideration. 

The real picture can be seen below (the proposed construction is in front of the red box)

The coloured dots represent areas of turtle activity over the last five years.  It can be seen that directly in front of Melia Llana Beach where the proposed breakwater will go has a significant number of nests.

The lack of understanding of the behaviour and biology of loggerhead turtles is obvious in this report and the assumptions made are incorrect for two reasons:
1. if rocks are exposed are at low tide it does not matter because turtles will exit the beach on high tide.
2. turtles do not come out of the sea and nest directly in front of the place that they exited.  They may walk diagonally or in a random way and often choose to nest in a place far away from the original exit point.

Algodoeiro is a unique place for turtles on Sal, with a different ecology to other beaches.  In addition, a genetic study has stated that the turtles that nest on this coastline have differences in make up than those that nest on other beaches.  Therefore it is not enough to state that turtles will find other areas as the issues are more complicated than that. 

The proposal itself states that the project should not "Cause the destruction or damage of sensitive environmental areas"  or "involve any extinction of or affect any species with special status of protection".  However it does seem that the project would create some serious negative impacts in both of these case should it go ahead.

Given that the main purpose is to allow tourists to enter the sea at low tide, this project does not seem out of balance when the massive cost, both in terms of money and environmental impact is taken into consideration.

The public consultation period ends on December 27th, 2012.  To voice your support or concerns please email Maria.R.Soares@mahot.gov.cv or Moises.Borges@mahot.gov.cv or leave your comments at the Library in Espargos.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Amazing people needed!

Have you been following our stories and wished that you could swap your life for a life in the sun helping to save an amazing, charismatic and endangered species?  Now's your chance!  We are recruiting the team that will help to move our association forward in 2013.

Next year we have several more exciting projects in the pipeline.  We will be working with turtles as usual but we will also work with marine mammals and birds.  We are also looking for a special person to head up a new programme on a different island.  If you are looking for a challenging and rewarding job take a look at the full descriptions here.

You can also volunteer for a short period if you don't have too much time.  Even a week can be enough to make a difference.  Volunteering information can be found here.

Before you apply you should know that it is a very tough job, patrolling the beach all night and not getting much sleep during the day can be exhausting, but if you are prepared to give it all you've got, it could be one of the most incredible experiences of your life.

Could you be one of our amazing people this year?


Friday, November 9, 2012

Breeding Kentish Plovers discovered on Sal

Kentish plovers Charadrius alexandrinus are small shorebirds (weighing only 40g) with an unknown status on Sal.  On Maio there has been an ongoing study of these very interesting birds for several years and with the help of Maio Biodiversity Foundation, SOS Tartarugas has started a survey on Sal.

Many Kentish plover populations are now declining and we want to make sure that we don't lose the ones that are here.

Kentish Plover chick
Kentish plovers are migratory in most parts of their range, although populations close to the equator are only partially migrant or resident. They breed on edges of saline lakes and lagoons, and inhabit salt-marshes and sand dunes so these islands provide some perfect habitat for them.

The problem is that they are extremely vulnerable as their breeding areas are lost to development.  In addition, their nests are mere scrapes on the ground meaning that predators such as crows and dogs can easily eat them and unwary humans could step on them without even noticing. 


Kentish Plover nest

To start with our team will be going out early in the morning and identifying the best areas to see the birds who are nesting at this time of year.  If we can establish that there are more than 15 breeding pairs we will know that it is worth starting a full time Kentish Plover programme in 2013.  We also want to understand if there is migration between the islands and we will do this by ringing the birds so that they can be identified whereever they are seen.

A ringed Kentish Plover
So far we have identified four very good habitats on Sal that may even support a bird-watching programme for visitors next year.

More photos here.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

30% do nosso dinheiro é gasto em outras ilhas / 30% of our money is spent on other islands

Turtle SOS may be based in Sal but we also help projects in almost all the other islands.  This year we have sent money and/or equipment to people working in Maio, Santiago, Fogo & São Nicolau.  We have also provided training here on Sal for people from Santo Antão, São Nicolau, Fogo & Santiago.

These great people don't have access to income from tourism in the same way as we do and the money they should receive from the government often arrives too late, so we are delighted to be able to help in this way.

Not only does it increase the skills level and the amount of patrols and outreach activity that is possible, it also creates a network of people involved in turtle conservation across the country.
Delegates from Projeto Vitó join us for a workshop on Sal
We especially enjoy it when people come to the workshops we hold here on Sal.  Here are some photos of our colleagues from Projeto Vitó on Fogo who joined us earlier in the month.  Treining Ilha do Sal com SOS Tartarugas

Friday, August 17, 2012

Here's to our fantastic team!

So many incredible people help us to achieve our goal to stop the killing of turtles in Cabo Verde that it is impossible to get them all together at any one time, so we try to take several team photos each season.  Here is everyone we could gather yesterday.

Our team is made up of monitors & volunteers who live here plus international volunteers from many different countries.  We also host many people who work with turtles on different islands and come to us to increase their experience.  Then there are all the other members of TAOLA (The Capeverdean Sea Turtle Network) who we also consider to be our colleagues and part of our team.


So far this season the following have worked for or volunteered with SOS Tartarugas:
Manuel, Albert, Peter, Linda, Berta, Luizandra, Fogo, Ana Filipa, Marta, Andre, Ana Claudia, Jesus, Artemizio, Nick, Geoff, Lynn, Bucari, Dada, Guido, Anderson, Jacques, Sarah, Angela, Ana Sofia, Amanda, Artur, Nernon, Antonio, Ryan, Jean, Agrita, Judith, João, Sarah, Amber, Hugo, Ivanildo, Emma, Josilene, Lydia, Maria, Fernando, Adilson, Teresa, Rui, Alicia, Mariana, Fernando, Ronan, Alli, Neal, Antonio, Herculano, João, Hayley, Valerie.












Monday, August 13, 2012

Man trying to kill turtle released without charge

Last night on Kite Beach, a tour guide who cooperates with SOS Tartarugas phoned to tell us that he had found a turtle upside down.  The guide waited with his guests until the Rangers, Military and Police arrived.

The man responsible was extremely drunk and very aggressive, threatening everyone including the group of tourists.  He was also unafraid of the consequences of his actions and told Rangers that it didn't matter, he would come back tomorrow and take another turtle.

The soldiers held him until the police came and arrested him but when we went to the police station today, it seems that there is little chance that any further action will be taken.

While the recent publicity over the killing of turtles on Sal has resulted in criticism of various authorities and by default, this association, nothing has been said about the criminal activities of people such as this man.  No amount of patrols will solve the problem until the population makes it unacceptable for turtles to be killed and for turtle meat to be eaten.

Caretta - the turtle that was found upside down last night
The turtle was lucky this time and was released back to the sea.  She had been tagged previously by our visitors from Project Caretta in Santiago island who attended a workshop designed to give them more experience working with turtles.  João named this turtle Caretta.

Lisa & two other turtles saved in one night.

SOS Tartarugas Rangers, together with the National Police saved three turtles that were about to be killed.

The turtles had been taken from the northern part of Algodoeiro.  The first one was discovered at 2am after Rangers found a half built egg chamber that ended in a drag mark.  Following the drag mark led directly to the turtle who was found upside down.  She was safely returned to the sea.
A typical drag mark - the turtle has been turned upside down and is pulled along by her flippers or a rope around the neck
A couple of hours later, a Ranger with extremely sharp eyes noticed a lot of very heavy footprints just above the level of the sea.  Nowadays turtle killers pick up the turtle out of the sea to disguise what has happened, but an adult turtle is very heavy and their footprints are noticeably deeper.  Only someone with plenty of experience would have spotted this.

The Rangers looked around for the turtle with no luck but soon the police turned up to help.  One police officer was infuriated and drew his weapon, running towards a group of houses, determined to find the culprit.  No trace could be seen but again experience came to the fore and the Ranger listened carefully for the sounds of an upside down turtle flapping her flippers.  Sure enough, it led them directly to the right spot and to their great surprise, they found not just one, but two turtles on their backs.

The turtles were found close to someone's house but when questioned by the police the residents showed a piece of paper stating that they had attended some training held by the Protected Areas team.  This apparently is evidence that they are not involved.

With assistance from the police the turtles were lifted into the back of the car and returned to the sea.

Manuel tags the turtle with a unique number that is held on an international database

One of the turtles had nested two weeks before and had been seen and tagged.  She had been named 'Lisa'.

Lisa heads for the sea




Friday, August 10, 2012

Visite do Patrono de SOS / Our Patron visits

We always have a place in our heart for the many people who have helped the association over the years but a special place is reserved for our Patron, Matthias Schmelz.

Five years ago when a few people decided to try to reverse the drastic decline of turtles on Sal we never imagined that the association would grow so quickly and have such a dramatic effect.

We dreamed of what might be possible, but we knew we did not have enough money to accomplish a lot in the first year.  A chance meeting changed all that.

Costa Fragata on the island of Sal in 2007
Matthias Schmelz was visiting Sal and had taken an island tour in 2007.  At that time there were many, many dead turtles on every beach on the island.  There were also many juvenile and baby turtles kept in terrible conditions for the entertainment of tourists.  Matthias visited one such place and was appalled.  He took immediate action and released the turtles that were being kept in a tiny concrete tank.  His brave action ended in being held at gunpoint and being arrested.  This incident motivated him to try to do something to protect the turtles in Cabo Verde.  Not long after he was told about this new association and asked for a meeting.

That meeting led Matthias to make an amazingly large donation, a donation that funded the entire first year of operation (and then some!) and meant that turtle protection on Sal was off to a flying start.  He gave that money to a total stranger without hesitation but with a huge amount of trust, hope & friendship.

We were delighted to welcome Matthias back to Sal and to host a visit from his friends and family to the SOS Tartarugas hatchery and then later to visit a nesting beach.  Everyone was immensely proud to show him what his faith in us had created.


Matthias & his family and friends at the hatchery
Thanks Matthias, from all of us here at SOS Tartarugas, you are a truly generous and trusting person.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Birds of Sal

Although Sal may be overshadowed by Santo Antão and other islands for birdwatching, we still have an excellent array of species to be proud of!  The birds can be viewed around the salinas, along the foreshore and in the desert.  Although as residents we consider most of the birds to be every day, for visitors from Europe they could be on their life list of birds to see.

Our favourites include the Kentish plover which nests in the salinas, the Red Tailed Tropicbird whose distinctive call can be heard at our camp at Serra Negra and the magnificent ospreys, a massive sea eagle, one of which lives close to Turtle House.

Since we often get asked by visitors to the hatchery about birds as well as turtles we have produced our own little guide to the most frequently seen birds on Sal.  Thanks to Neal Clayton & Guido Vermeulen for their hard work in compiling the list.

Download The Birds of Sal Turtle SOS 2012 here