Research

Protecting endangered turtles

Summary

Research led by QMUL’s Dr. Eizaguirre assessing the state of the turtle population nesting in the Cape Verde Archipelago (Africa) has had a direct impact on the conservation of the endangered loggerhead turtles. By influencing Cape Verde policy making and conservation practice the research has led to a significant reduction of turtle poaching across the archipelago and the designation of marine protected areas based on satellite tracking of turtles. This project is a citizen-science research-led programme and multi-award winner for its public engagement through multi actions with national and international NGOs.

The science: monitoring the movements and genetic biodiversity of turtles

Monitoring the consequences of changing oceans on ecosystems and biodiversity are major goals of modern conservation biology. Cape Verde supports the third largest population of endangered loggerhead sea turtles worldwide. The size and location of this rookery make the conservation of sea turtle across the archipelago of local and global concern. However, in Cape Verde, turtle protection faces direct threat from poaching and coastal development.

Research started by Christophe Eizaguirre has investigated the structure of the Cape Verde sub-population of turtles, the loss of diversity and the movements and associated threats faced by the turtles.

Using next generation satellite-relayed devices attached directly to adult turtles, the team has identified the whereabouts of the turtles and contributed to the definition of possible marine protected areas. Applying new tags to the turtles, which in combination with high resolution ocean modelling they can predict dispersal of hatchlings and define possible points of threats. They have also identified nesting groups to prioritise for conservation because of the loss of genetic diversity.

Putting research into action: impact on turtle poaching through engagement with the community

One of the main direct threats to turtles is direct poaching. Dr. Eizaguirre and his team are working with NGOs and local communities to reduce turtle poaching. Jointly >100kms of beach are being protected which has decreased the number of slaughtered turtles to >10% of the total nesting population. This has been realised by:

  • Training students at the Cape Verde University of Mindelo in modern conservation.
  • The standardisation of protocols for comparing turtle populations across islands of the archipelago.
  • Increased protection (beach patrols against poachers) across the entire archipelago.
  • In nesting period (June to October) we engage with local children, who are encouraged into beach clean-ups and environment friendly activities related to turtles.