IOSEA supports community-based conservation in Comoros, WIO
Source: C.N.S. Poonian, Community Centred Conservation (C3)
Mohéli Island in the Comoros is one of the key nesting sites for green turtles in the Western Indian Ocean.
Hawksbill turtles also nest here and leatherbacks are occasionally sighted.
Green turtles nest throughout the year, with a peak during the Austral Winter.
However, poaching of nesting females has become a serious problem in recent years.
The creation, in 2001, of Mohéli Marine Park (PMM), shown in the figure above, reduced the threat of turtle poaching. However, owing to a lack of funds in recent years, the Park has been unable to continue turtle surveillance, and poaching is again an increasing threat.
In 2002, Dr. Jeanne Mortimer identified the following priorities for turtle conservation in the Comoros:
1. Support efforts of village associations and local communities to protect turtles on Mohéli.
2. Develop income generating activities and employment related to the presence of marine turtles, particularly through eco-tourism.
3. Put in place a mechanism for long-term financing of marine turtle conservation in Comoros.
4. Involve local communities in monitoring activities on Mohéli.
5. Conduct public awareness programmes on Mohéli, Anjouan, & Grand Comore to minimize poaching by their residents at Mohéli.
Fortunately, some villages have already established effective community surveillance programmes, and many others have expressed a strong interest in forming environmental associations to protect their sea turtles.
The village of Itsamia had been the target of much of the previous turtle conservation work on Mohéli and the community has initiated turtle ecotourism activities.
The IOSEA-funded project described below aimed to motivate and fully implicate all of the communities of Mohéli in the conservation of their sea turtles.
Following discussions with Kamardine Boinali (PMM Curator) and the PMM ecoguards, it was decided specifically that this project must reach those villages on Mohéli where poaching was most prevalent.
• To support the Association for the Socioeconomic Development of Itsamia (ADSEI) through a contribution to the organizational costs of the Day of the Turtle 2006 in collaboration with CEDTM/Kelonia Reunion.
• To organize a turtle drawing competition to raise public awareness in five villages of Mohéli, focusing on those most affected by poaching.
• To create a conservation centre on Mohéli in order to promote the conservation of sea turtles to tourists and Mohélians; to provide a headquarters for turtle conservation activities, and to act as a point of sale for artisanal goods and souvenirs to generate income for local communities.
Day of the Turtle
Since 1999, May 28th has been celebrated on Mohéli as the official Day of the Turtle.
Held in Itsamia, the day has been a resounding success for the promotion of environmental awareness of sea turtles on Mohéli. In 2006 this day marked the starting point of activities to celebrate IOSEA Year of the Turtle.
Speeches about turtle conservation were made by the Curator of Mohéli Marine Park (PMM), the Minister for the Environment, Minister for Tourism, Francois Beudard of CEDTM/Kelonia and C3's Patricia Davis.
People came from all over the island to participate in a huge range of activities to suit all ages. Some of the most popular activities included tug of war, dancing, singing, poetry and dictation competitions and the ‘tam tam de boeuf’, the Comorian equivalent of the running of the bulls!
C3 helped to organize the weekend in collaboration with PMM and Association for the Socioeconomic Development of Itsamia (ADSEI). The event was a great success, with an estimated 400 participants. Everybody learned a great deal about sea turtle ecology and conservation. Prizes for competition winners and IOSEA t-shirts were distributed at the end of the weekend.
The event was filmed by a team from CEDTM/Kelonia, the turtle research group from Reunion Island. Most participants received goody bags with snacks and drinks to keep them happy and full of energy throughout.
School Education and Drawing Competition
In celebration of the IOSEA Year of the Turtle, C3 and Mohéli Marine Park (PMM) initiated a programme to inform students of the life history, ecology and conservation issues of Mohéli’s sea turtles and to encourage their involvement in their protection.
The programme took place at schools in five villages, from 16 June to 11 July. The villages were identified by the PMM Curator, Kamardine Boinali, as those most heavily affected by turtle poaching.
A total of 313 students attended the five presentations: 151 girls and 162 boys between the ages of 7 and 23. C3 was assisted by PMM ecoguards Hamada Issoufi, Cheikh Moussa (‘Bush’) and community volunteers.
In addition to educating students about the turtles that were nesting nightly on Mohéli’s beaches at the time, a drawing contest was held in each village. The ecoguards held the attention of classrooms full of up to 81 children with their animated and heartfelt presentations.
At Hamavouna, the team was unfortunate enough to discover a disemboweled turtle on the beach, so it was decided to bring the children outside to witness firsthand the destructive actions of turtle poachers. The children participated eagerly in the drawing competition, and many of them added thoughtful captions to their drawings.
PMM Curator Kamardine Boinali judged the competition, taking into account the age of the competitor and the pertinence of the message included with the drawing. First, second and third prize winners from each village were awarded a certificate and one winner from each village was taken on an exciting overnight field trip to Itsamia.
All the winners were lucky enough to observe both nesting females and juvenile turtles emerging. PMM ecoguard and turtle expert Matarafi Hamadi provided the children with further information and a full commentary on the turtle nesting process.
The drawings selected were used to create a poster and T-shirt promoting turtle conservation, which has been distributed throughout Mohéli and the Comoros.
Hoani Conservation Centre
Mohéli’s potential for ecotourism is undoubtedly its greatest asset, and is one of the most frequently-proposed means for economic development on the island. Mohéli’s natural environment is unique: the island hosts coral reefs, tropical forests and charismatic endangered species such as dugongs and sea turtles. However, capacity for ecotourism on the island is low, there is little interpretative material about turtles available to tourists and few local people have received the necessary training in tourism services. A building exists in Itsamia, known as the ‘House of the Turtle’, however, its awareness materials are now aging, and there are no brochures or information for tourists to take away with them.
The village of Hoani, on the northwest coast of the island was identified by C3-Comores as a priority site for turtle conservation activities, since it lies outside of the boundaries of Mohéli Marine Park (PMM), despite the fact that the village’s beaches provide an important nesting site for green turtles. As a result of the village’s concerns at increased levels of turtle poaching in the area, C3 and FADEVICHO (the village association of Hoani) created a Conservation Centre. A disused building was renovated to create a headquarters for turtle conservation activities in northwest Mohéli.
Work on the Conservation Centre started in June 2006, with funding support from IOSEA, and it was completed in December. The Centre is located on a turtle nesting beach close to Hoani, and comprises two rooms. The first room has been designed to accommodate anti-poaching ‘community ecoguard’ teams (trained by C3) during night patrols and for tourists who wish to view nesting turtles. The second room has been designed to inform tourists and villagers about conservation issues on Mohéli. The room displays informative brochures about turtles, as well as information boards on the environment, history and culture of Hoani village and the surrounding region.
The Centre will act as a point of sale for handicrafts, postcards and T-shirts, revenue from which will be channeled back into conservation initiatives in the village.
The postcards, T-shirts and brochures were also distributed to other village associations throughout Mohéli and the House of Ecotourism.
Two murals have been painted on the centre by Audrey Clarke (C3) and artists from Hoani. The specific designs for the paintings were chosen by FADEVICHO to portray the environment of Mohéli and the species that live within it.
A menu and programme of activities for ecotourists was also compiled following discussion between C3 and FADEVICHO. By enhancing the experience of tourists, additional funds will be raised for turtle conservation activities through purchase of souvenirs and increased international awareness.
FADEVICHO is very pleased with the progress initiated by the presence of the Centre and later sent a letter of thanks to C3 and its donor agencies. The Centre is already generating motivation for turtle monitoring activities – villagers out on patrol were successful in arresting several poachers in the months of August and September 2006. The resounding success of this collaboration was formalized in 2006 when C3 and FADEVICHO signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together to conserve the important marine ecosystems of northwest Mohéli.
* * * * *
This report is the culmination of the advice, cooperation, hard work and expertise of many people. In particular, acknowledgments are due to the following for their contributions:
COMMUNITY CENTRED CONSERVATION (C3)
Director: Patricia Davis
International Programme Manager: Chris Poonian
C3-Comores Programme Manager: Rozenn Le Scao
C3-Comores Programme Coordinator: Melissa Hauzer
Interns: Charles Beaufrere, Sarah Freed, Ariana Arcenas, Kileken Ole Moi-Yoi, Bjorn Alfthan, Joanne Nice and Audrey Clark
MOHELI MARINE PARK
Curator : Kamardine Boinali
Ecoguards, particularly Hamada Issoufi and Cheikh Moussa
Management Committee, particularly Abdou Malida and Nassur Ahamada
ADSEI, particularly Matarafi Hamadi
FADEVICHO / HUPPE, particularly Nema Madi, Loufti Madi, Ahmed Abla, Ahmed Dahalane, Mouzidalifa Issouf, Aboubacar Ahmed Kaldi, Omar Nafdi and Bachiroudine Issa
THE MINISTRY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, MOHELI, particularly Abdou Tchake, Minister for the Environment and Toiouilou Madi Bam Dou, Director General for Tourism
THE MINISTRY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, COMOROS, particularly Sitti Kassim, Minister for the Environment; Said Mohammed Ali Said, Secretary General and Fatouma Abdallah, Adjoint Director, INRAPE
AIDE, particularly Zaharani Moindjie and Said Ahamada, Secretary General
All other volunteers and students, particularly Ben Said Omar, Mouzdaaoi Baussawi and Bounouenche Moussa
For more information
Community Centred Conservation (C3): www.c-3.org.uk; email@example.com
C3-Comores: BP 8310, Iconi, Grande Comore; tel. +269 73 75 04; GSM +269 36 75 06
Mohéli Marine Park (PMM)
Association of Intervention for Development and the Environment (AIDE)
FADEVICHO / HUPPE
tel. +269 72 04 62