Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)
Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 0925454
The Comoros islands (Grande Comore, Anjouan and Moheli) are home to a number of ecologically important and vulnerable coastal habitats including coral reefs, mangrove forests and seagrass beds which support high marine biodiversity. Mohéli hosts one of the most important green turtle (Chelonia mydas) populations in the Indian Ocean (with an estimated 5,000 nesting females) and a smaller population (< 50 nesting females) of hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata). These species are Endangered and Critically Endangered, respectively. Smaller numbers of green turtles (<50 nesting females) also nest on Anjouan or Grand Comore. The hunting and trade of marine turtles is prohibited by Comorian law, but turtles are still hunted for their meat. A National Turtle Conservation Action Plan has been completed but not fully implemented apart from through a few community-based projects.
Five species of marine turtles frequent the coast of Madagascar, namely the Green (Chelonia mydas), Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Loggerhead (Caretta caretta), Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), and to a lesser extent the Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) turtle. With the exception of leatherback turtles, all of these species nest on Malagasy beaches. Marine turtle nesting beaches include: Nosy Hara and Nosy Iranja in the north-west of Madagascar, Ankaramany, Enakao, Ibakiky, Elodrato, Antsotso, Evatraha and Sainte Luce / Fort Dauphin area in the south-east; Masoala in the north-east; Ile Sainte Marie (east); Iles Barrens in Western Madagascar; and Beheloka, Toliara, Ifaty, Ampasimanoro, Maromena and Besambay in the south-west. Suitable foraging habitats (shallow coral reefs and seagrass beds) have been identified in north-west Madagascar, Nosy Iranja, Radama Islands and Nosy Hara Archipelago. Population declines had already been noted as early as the end of the First World War. The fundamental reason for the decline of turtles in Madagascar is thought to be due to overexploitation in the form of hunting for meat and/or carapaces and raiding of nests. Turtle populations are opportunistically hunted by the local people, in artisanal and subsistence fishing. Turtles have also played a very important role in the culture of the Vezo tribe in the south-west, although to a lesser extent now than before. The cultural importance of turtles, however, appears to becoming obsolete, with fewer people adhering to these traditions. More research is needed to determine the current status of, and the threats impacting on, the Malagasy marine turtle populations.
In Mauritius, nesting occurs on the beaches of St. Brandon and Agalega . Foraging and feeding takes place in seagrass, algae and reef areas around Mauritius, St. Brandon and Agalega. Nesting (and foraging) numbers of turtles have been declining since the 1970's, due to excessive exploitation, as well as impacts from coastal development and tourism.
This project aims to identify regionally-important turtle populations and threats to their survival and to increase the capacity of coastal communities in the Comoros, Northern Madagascar and Mauritius to protect sea turtles and develop sustainable livelihoods such as sea turtle-based ecotourism.
Project 0925454 location - Comoros, Africa