In Cabo Verde, the conservation of the loggerhead sea turtles is led by local groups operating on all islands and islets of the archipelago. For some years, major efforts focused on the main nesting islands of Boa Vista, Sal and Maio, with well established NGOs. Thanks to a push from the government and the local authorities, and with the support from institutions like QMUL and the Eizaguirre Lab, local community groups started to appear in different areas of the country. Nowadays, the diverse groups working to protect the loggerhead turtles of Cabo Verde and are bond together through TAOLA - the national network for the conservation of marine turtles of Cabo Verde.
Since the start of the Turtle Project, the Eizaguirre Lab has supported the growth of many of those groups, currently actively collaborating with 10 of them bringing knowledge, expertise and resources. This is forms the largest environmental citizen science project in Cabo Verde to date.
Through the training of local guards from the different NGOs and the support in the capacity building via the training of students and graduates of the University of Cabo Verde, we promote the development of the future leaders in conservation. Our Ambassadors Scheme has trained 36 university students that had the chance to kick-start their career in conservation. We have seen students from biological science reach important coordination position in different NGOs and groups and enjoy now collaborating directly with them on our research projects.
We also contribute to educational activities, where we raise awareness about the importance of sea turtles and the threats of marine pollution. For instance, we created Atlantis, a free virtual reality application that allows swimming along with a loggerhead turtle, while learning their life and virtually reducing ocean pollution.
The philosophy of our project relies on our engagement with local communities, volunteers and conservation groups. We offer support with field equipment, improved logistics and capacity as well as funds. The project also generates a positive impact on local communities, for instance via the support in developing homestays, whereby students and volunteers stay with families who provide food and accommodation at local costs. This also enriches the experience of international volunteers to immerse into the local daily lives of those families.
At the same time, our results have shown the importance of small nesting groups to local and national authorities. Engaging with conservation groups protecting those small nesting aggregations have increased their capacity to find local support from stakeholders and to fundraise – creating a virtuous cycle.