Newsletter November 2012
Dear friends and supporters of the Turtle Foundation,
At our conservation project on the island of Boavista (Cape Verde), the annual nesting season for the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) recently ended. The two beach camps in Boa Esperança and Lacacão were dismantled, the international volunteers and soldiers have left, and the core team can now come up for air.
We look back on a very successful season with an unusually high number of nesting turtles. This year we saw a record number of 3,611 nests on Turtle Foundation’s monitored beaches - which is four times more nests than in the previous year (2011: 892 nests)! Like last year, we lost only 5 turtles to poachers, though of course we had hoped to bring this number to zero.
But what are the reasons for this lively nesting season? It would be nice to claim that the rising numbers relate to our project's presence at Boavista, but 5 years of our work (2008-2012) are, unfortunately, too short a span in the life cycle of marine turtles, to show such a rapid recovery. It takes about 25-30 years for loggerhead turtles to reach maturity, and thus the hatchlings born under our care since 2008 will not return to nest until 2033 at least.
Interestingly, Florida, the world's largest nesting area for the loggerhead turtles, also documented record numbers of nesting turtles this year. Is it because of an unusually rich food supply in the ocean? Favorable currents? We do not know and this underscores, once again, the importance of long-term data collection in order to understand the turtles’ life histories and be able to make appropriate protection and management decisions.
A group of Turtle Foundation board members just returned from a visit to our green turtle protection project in Indonesia. Because we are committed to all available funds going to the turtles, all travel expenses were paid from board members’ own pockets and not from the association’s account.
Thorsten Hoelser writes about the visit: "For eight days we stayed in tents pitched on Bilang-Bilangan to get an idea of the current situation of the sea turtles. We also accompanied the rangers in their daily work: removing beach trash as well as driftwood that creates obstacles for turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs as well as the hatchlings trying to reach the sea. On the nightly inspection tours around the island we saw many turtles laying their eggs. Every night some nests have to be relocated because they are laid too close to the flood line. Daily highlights included watching the tiny hatchlings racing from the nest to the sea. Overall, the situation of the turtles on Bilang-Bilangan and the neighboring island Mataha is continuously improving, so we are planning to expand the ranger stations in the near future,.
If we have sparked your interest in a visit to the spectacularly beautiful islands of the Derawan Archipelago, we can tell you now that we are planning an to offer an exclusive trip in the future once a year for a maximum 6 members and / or sponsors of the Turtle Foundation. The trip will be a combination of visiting the project area, followed by a stay at the Eco-Dive Resort Nunukan. Interested parties can find more information by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Unlike Bilang-Bilangan and Mataha, the project on Sangalaki has us very worried. The local government unexpectedly informed us that the rangers must be off the island by the end of September. This leaves all the turtles nests completely vulnerable to poaching. The future of our Ranger Station and the turtles on Sangalaki is quite uncertain at the moment. Of course we will pursue every available option to continue our work on this critically important nesting beach.
Meanwhile, we have filed an urgent request to clarify the situation on Sangalaki with the appropriate ministry in Jakarta. Should no quick solution emerge that makes it possible to resume the protection program, we will launch a campaign soon to rescue Sangalaki.
In the appendix to this letter you will find an information sheet about the Turtle Foundation, which summarizes our work and goals. Please forward this leaflet to friends and acquaintances who might be interested in the fate of sea turtles.
Please help us continue our work for the sea turtles and their wonderful and fragile world of coral reefs, seagrass beds and nesting beaches!
With warm regards
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