project news

Turtles Ahoy!

News item submitted by Flora O'Brien
News item dated 22 Oct 2010


Gliding along, serenely surveying the colourful coral-covered landscape of the marine park, our volunteers had the luck to see five turtles during a dive off Mafia Island, Tanzania. That surely qualifies as blissful experience for any marine enthusiast! There are two species of turtles known to nest on beaches of the Mafia Island archipelago: the Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), both of which are endangered according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.  However, the breeding success of turtles nesting on these beaches is impeded by the considerable amount of litter which accumulates there, largely consisting of flip flops, plastic bottles and fishing gear. This waste considerably reduces the quality of the beach environment for nesting turtles and may lead to them laying their eggs below the high-tide line. If turtle eggs are laid too close to the water, there is a high risk of hatching failure due to rotting of the eggs and sub-optimal temperature exposure. Needless to say, this could result in substantial declines in the populations of these rare turtles.

The Frontier team have been taking actions to prevent such occurrences by conducting regular beach cleans on two of the turtle-nesting beaches on Juani Island.  In cooperation with a local NGO, the volunteers have also been re-locating nests which were laid below the high-tide line to more suitable locations on the beach. This has proved to be highly rewarding work, as the volunteers witnessed over 150 turtles hatching on the litter-free beaches, before taking their first dip into the ocean.

Swimming Sea Turtle

Flora O’Brien
Research and Development Intern

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