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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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Conservation efforts on Maio

The all female Maio team!
A few days in Maio earlier this week filled us with hope for a good management plan for the turtles next year.

Maio has really suffered as the forgotten island in terms of turtle conservation as, despite the City Hall's programme of monitoring & guarding turtles, there has never been a consistent and well coordinated project.  

This year the City Hall, ACCC (a study on climate change) & Natura 2000 all patrolled and collected data but there was no overall coordination in order to ensure consistent methodology.

Joao, a guard during 2011 explains his work
In the past few years the City Hall has paid guards from outlying villages to patrol the beaches and collect simple data (number of nests & tracks and number of turtles killed).  The funds for this activity comes from the DGA (General Directorate of the Environment) and this has been supplemented with training and equipment from ourselves, Natura 2000, Biosfera I and others.

Turtle nesting beach on Maio
The situation on Maio is critical, since it is believed to be the second largest nesting area in Cape Verde, but there is very little data available.  The number of turtles being killed each year on the land and in the surrounding sea is unknown but believed to be very high and the amount of nests stolen is probably the highest of any of the islands here.

To see what can be done to improve the situation, SOS Tartarugas arranged a visit which included a representative of the US Fish & Wildlife Service, a very important funder of turtle conservation in Cabo Verde.  During meetings with the City Hall and the Foundation for Biodiversity in Maio, it seems as if an overall management plan can be developed and implemented in 2012.

The salina on Maio, a very important biodiversity site
The Foundation is a very important partner for SOS since they are already well integrated in the community in Maio and will be able to coordinate and communicate with all the interested groups and individuals.

Not only will this brand new foundation work in turtle protection, but they are already deeply involved in the preservation of habitat and other species on the island.  One of the most important projects is research & conservation of the Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus.  (For more information about this important work follow this link).
The Sogei resort with the sea on the left & salina on the right
 This small bird nests on the ground following the seasonal rains and the salina on Maio is very important habitat for them.   Unfortunately for the environment, development has reached Maio and the residential/hotel development is situated in a small strip of beach between the sea on the left and the salina on the right.  The construction is going very slowly because few people have bought properties, however the impact on the birds and other wildlife has already been very serious. 

The little scrape of sand that is a nest
The Kentish Plover nests on the ground, making a tiny scrape in the sand and is extremely vulnerable to predation.  This photo shows the last remaining nest which on our visit was found to be predated.

The foundation has many difficult hurdles in their path, with not only these two species to protect, but many more and they face the prospect of the same extensive loss of habitat as here on Sal.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Kids turn into conservationists!

It is so rewarding to see the fruits of the SOS Tartarugas programme for children.  Yesterday two young boys brought us a six week old hatchling that a friend of theirs was keeping in a water bottle in his house.  A couple of years ago it was really common to see kids walking around selling hatchling to the tourists in Santa Maria and there are still many turtles that are kept in houses (sometimes in very poor condition).

These two lovely boys from Noz Kasa had attended the workshop with Joana and had learned that it is much better to put the turtles in the sea right away.

Maria, Albert & Berta went with the kids to wish the turtles a safe journey and afterwards they received a certificate of adoption for their turtle and even got to give it a name.  They also like the Haribo reward!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Slow start but finishing strong

In June we were sitting around twiddling our thumbs waiting for the turtles to make an appearance, by August we were working flat out.  2011 has definitely been the strangest year so far.  We didn't know whether the late start would mean a late finish or whether it was just going to be a very low year.  Turns out that the turtles decided they would stick to the end date but just get really busy in August.

It's not quite over yet, but so far we have had 200 more nests than in 2008 and 50 more than in 2010.  The biggest change has been in the location of the nests - as the turtles head further north to find undisturbed beaches.

Another interesting fact is that we have had a much higher ratio of nests to tracks - 40% compared to the more usual 30%.

So far there have been 5,000 hatchlings born (2,500 in the hatchery)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


It's nearly impossible to get every member of our family together in one place for a photo, but on Sunday we tried!
In this picture are some of the international Rangers from overseas but also our great volunteers who live in Sal.  

As anyone who has worked with us knows, it is a punishing schedule, working six nights a week for four months, walking up and down the beach for hours. 

The resident volunteers who dedicate one or two nights a week to patrol alongside full time Rangers and then go to work the next day fill those gaps on our rota that mean we can patrol even more beaches and save even more turtles.  Not only that, but they bring a fresh enthusiasm that enlivens some very tired people!  Alongside the Rangers and the volunteers we rely on our great Capeverdean contingent who find employment with us, but more than that, fight the cause by spreading the word about their work amongst their countrymen.

To those who didn't make it on Sunday (the Rangers in camp, Antonio, Steve M, the Salter family, Peter and Linda, Isabel and Vaughn, Vickey) - don't worry we'll get you sooner or later!