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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Tuesday, September 23, 2008


She has legendary status. She is Big Mama. A venerable loggerhead measuring more than 1m and an enormous head. She has been nesting here for a long time and nothing is going to get in her way. She has dragged many a Ranger and burly soldiers down the beach - she will not be thwarted and she doesn't care if you want to measure or tag her. Even hunters cannot deter her, it was a close call - she was seconds away from being butchered and saved in the nick of time by the Rangers. And she is back, (who says the season is over?) yet another nest laid last night on Paradise Beach to add to the two already in the hatchery. We are expecting super-babies from those nests.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hatchery vs Nature

Now that we have had plenty of nests hatching in both artificial and natural conditions, we are beginning to discuss the relative merits of both. Our hatchery success rate is 70% but most of the nests left in situ are much higher at 90%+. However, the nests that we have moved would probably have been washed over by high tides or destroyed by vehicles if we had not intervened and maybe no hatchlings at all would have emerged. Our ideal would be to leave all the nests on the beach that were not below high water, but the problem so far, is that although all in situ nests have high hatching success, without exception, the majority of hatchlings have gone the wrong way and headed towards the lights of buildings and construction sites. We estimate that more than 90% of the babies born naturally this year have already been lost. If this has been happening, unmonitored in previous years, we are going to have a serious problem in 20 to 30 years when it is time for them to return to Cabo Verde.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Not such a good result

Last night a nest hatched on the beach by the new residential area in Santa Maria. Unfortunately almost all 65 babies headed for the buildings, many of which are very brightly lit, even though they are unoccupied. Several were also killed on the road. I am personally very upset as we searched and searched for the nest back in July and even though the turtle had made eight attempts to dig a nest, we believed that she had given up. It's a very rocky area and everyone told us turtles no longer nest there. If we had found the nest it would have hatched safely in the hatchery. What is even more upsetting is that the residents and developers I have spoken to do not feel that their lights are a problem. Turtle friendly lights are just as good as regular lights and we believe that people buying property on Sal would want the turtles to keep coming to beaches near their houses. We feel even more determined now to rescue nests in areas like these until we can convince people to make some compromises to help the turtles.

Another great result

It's great that the police are really working with us now. They called us today about a turtle that was 'found' and they brought her straight round to us. Probably one of the few loggerheads in the world to have had a ride around in a police vehicle. She was exhausted and very dry and dusty but once all the sand was off her she looked beautiful. We tagged her and released her from a beach in Santa Maria. Poor thing was quite reluctant to go in the water, but the Rangers swam in with her and made sure that she was floating and breathing ok before we leg her go. How or where she was found is a little confused. No questions asked for this one, we are just glad she made it. Another lucky, lucky turtle.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Results so far

The most amazing result has been the absence of turtle carapaces this year. Very few have been killed compared to previous years and there is a stunning difference between protected and non-protected beaches.

Total turtle emergences 810
Emergences on protected beaches 702
Emergences non-protected beaches 96
Emergences per day 10.5
Most emergences protected beach (Cotton Bay) 119 activities / 28 nests /5 dead
Most emergences non-protected beach (Mont Leao) 40 activities / 7 nests / 12 dead

Total nests 201
Nests on protected beaches 186
Nests on non protected beaches 15
Nests in situ 91
Nests trans situ (moved to a better place on beach) 29
Nests relocated to hatchery 66
Average eggs in hatchery nests 88.4
Average incubation time in hatchery 62
Hatching success rate 67%

Total dead turtles 34
Dead on protected beaches 19
Ratio of emergences of turtles to number killed on protected beaches 1 in 46
Dead on non protected beaches 15
Ratio of emergences of turtles to number killed on non protected beaches 1 in 6
Turtles saved by Rangers (found before being killed) 18

Friday, August 15, 2008

Should turtle people eat tuna?

Babies at last!

The first baby was born today - from Nest 1 in the hatchery. This nest was found by Betania and Hattie on Algodoeiro beach and the whole team were present when in became the first nest moved by SOS Tartarugas into the hatchery. The incubation time was 64 days and 89 babies were born from 104 eggs. A pretty good 86% success rate. Have a feeling a lot more will be hatching over the next few days.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Environmental Fair

Rita and Jacquie went to the first ever Environmental Fair in Praia this week. The fair was opened by the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Environment, both of whom we had the chance to chat to about our project. In a speech about how important the protection of the environment was, the only subject to get a round of applause was when the PM talked about turtles being a critical part of the country's attraction and heritage. One of the best things was seeing some beautiful handicrafts from other islands (many using recycled products) and several inventive ways to make things from plastic bottles and bags. As it is rare to find Capeverdian handicrafts in Sal we hope to be able to sell some of these items here in the future.

Points of view

Had a conversation with a very well educated and spoken Capeverdian yesterday. She told me that she wanted to always have turtles in this country and the work that we are doing to protect them is excellent, but also believes that she has a right to eat turtle because she likes it and it is 'our food'.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The grim reality

In this line of work you get a great sense of satisfaction but there are also truly disturbing moments. Two of our Rangers were moments too late to save a 90cm loggerhead female. During their patrol they found the tell-tale track indicating a turtle had been flipped on her back and dragged away. As they had passed that same spot recently they knew the killers couldn't have gone far and ran towards Santa Maria. They obviously disturbed the criminals as they had run away leaving their blood spattered knive and the bucket that they would have used to carry turtle meat. The turtle was still alive but her flippers had been removed, a slice had been made down the centre of her plastron and her innards were falling out where a cut had been made underneath the plastron. The poor creature was obviously in a state of great distress and clearly there was nothing anyone could do for her. Fortunately the Rangers were able to contact the vet who could inject her with anaesthetic and after ten minutes she died. This is in a place promoted to tourists as having tranquil, white sand beaches. My big question is and will always be, 'Why, if you have to kill a turtle, must you do it in such an inhumane way?' Would a quick cut to the throat really not be possible? We are a bunch of concerned people but it will take more than this. It will never stop until the government get serious about stopping it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

East coast vs west coast

Just because we got used to all the activity happening around what we call Black Sand Beach (far end of Algodoeiro) the turtles switched over to the east side. The last few nights have seen much more activity on Costa Fragata which gave us the opportunity to think about moving a couple of nests further up the beach rather than to the hatchery. We had to move them because of their proximity to places where people regularly drive quads. CF is better for leaving the nests in situ than the west coast because of the width of the beach and the small lumps and bumps that make it easier to tuck the eggs away safely. The relative lack of light is also a big help. We had a competition to see who could make the best, most authentic, nest - we always try to replicate exactly what the turtle did in terms of width and depth. The nest we moved was the biggest yet - 136 eggs - a monster effort.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


In two separate incidents yesterday, it looks like the Rangers working for SOS Tartarugas are believed to have some suspicious motives :
1. Neal and Hattie, while innocently doing morning patrol counting tracks and looking for nests were harangued by an Italian gentleman who, despite being shown their uniforms and their official government ID, firmly believed that they were there to steal turtle eggs.
2. During an interview on Radio Cabo Verde Manuel and Aricson were told that many people believed that SOS Tartarugas were only keeping people from taking turtles so that they could have them all to themselves.
Folks! Let me assure you - we only put eggs in safer places for incubation and release them later and the turtles get tagged and returned safe and sound to the sea. Our fridge is not full of turtle meat! Perhaps we have not done as good a PR job as we thought!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Up track, no down track

Always a bad sign... unfortunately for this turtle it became the first statistic on the east coast, following the tell-tale drag mark almost a kilometer off the beach, we found the remains of a 80cm female loggerhead. This is the first carapace we have found, compared to last year when we would regularly find three or four left on the beach every morning, turtle-killers are now too scared to do their work on the beaches because there are too many people watching. Another change is that they had made a feeble attempt to erase the turtle's tracks, but it was still immediately obvious what had happened. Usually the flippers are discarded, but in this case they were missing, leading to a suspicion that, unfortunately, she was a turtle that we had previously tagged. Her eggs were laying scattered along her remains, so another generation has also been lost.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Day 54

After 54 days in the Big Turtle House, we are finally connected to the world via wireless internet. 54 long days since we started our lonely patrols on the beaches of Sal every night and every morning. The first turtle made us wait 12 long days before tantalising us with some tracks until, finally, on the 17th June the first turtle was tagged by Hattie. Since that time we have counted more than 300 turtle 'activities' (tracks, nests etc), tagged 37 turtles, left 23 nests where they are and moved 35. As of last night there were 3124 eggs incubating away in the hatchery.