West African Sea Turtles Under Threat: Report

Deutsche Presse-Agentur
August 9, 2001

Poaching, habitat destruction and illegal trade are all causing problems for sea turtles off Africa's Atlantic coast, says a report released this week.

The report says that while West Africa is home to some of the world's largest populations of sea turtles and several important feeding and nesting sites, the animals are under threat, particularly in certain countries.

Tough new laws and better customs searches are needed in Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe to crack down on the turtle-shell craft industry, the report says.

The sea turtle report was relased in Nairobi by the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), an international treaty body responsible for conserving animals that migrate.

"Large numbers are being systematically slaughtered for meat and their eggs sold for food, beyond what is sustainable," said Douglas Hykle, deputy executive secretary of the CMS secretariat.

"Considerable numbers are dying after becoming entangled in fishing nets. Others are being killed for their shell, which is carved into ornaments or used for making tourist trinkets."

The report urged countries to ratify the Convention on Migratory Species and the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species.

"In the western Atlantic and Pacific Ocean, populations of sea turtles have been falling dramatically in recent years," Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, said in a statement.

"This makes these findings in Western Africa doubly significant given its now undoubted status as a globally important region for sea turtle species."

The report discusses the status of six different sea turtle species in each country along the Atlantic coast of Africa and makes recommendations for action.

The report said the beaches of southern Gabon hold the largest number of Leatherback turtles in the world, but that females there "are systematically killed on the beaches and eggs stolen."

Researchers recently found what they say is the third-largest population of Loggerhead turtles in the world—numbering about 2,000 females—on the Cape Verde archipelago, said the report.

It calls for preserving key nesting and feeding sites, funding for guards to keep poachers away, increasing the monitoring of turtle habitat, and protecting coastal areas threatened by pollution.

Copyright 2001 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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