Good Morning All,
When we first visited Cape Verde last December we just missed the turtle hatching season and I was gutted as it was something I really wanted to see. This year, I done my research prior to our visit and I was confident we would get to witness it. As soon as we arrived on the Saturday, we walked along the beach while enjoying the sunset to try and find the hatchery. We walked for what felt like miles and couldn’t find it so headed back. The second night we walked again getting a bit further this time however we still could not see any sight of it. That night I spoke to another guest at the hotel and she advised us to walk along the road instead of the beach and it was only about 15 minutes away. On Monday night we set off at 4:30pm and after walking to the end of the road and along a dirt track, we finally managed to find it. We also realised we would never have made it walking along the beach.
There are 5 species of marine turtles in the Cape Verdean waters but the Loggerhead turtle is the only one which nests on it’s beaches. Unfortunately, like all marine turtles, the Loggerhead remains endangered as a result of poaching and continuous human pressures. There is massive development ongoing on the island of Sal with hotels popping up all over the place and taking over large parts of the beach where turtles would usually nest. The turtles which hatch on the beaches of Cape Verde will return in 20 years time to lay their eggs in the exact same spot which is amazing. As you can imagine, there are so many potential threats to the turtles and to think how much more developed the islands will be in 20 years time is quite concerning.
Project Biodiversity is a young Cabo Verdean non-profit association that aims to implement a wide range of environmental programmes that will contribute to the preservation and restoration of the natural habitats of Sal Island, to increasing the opportunities for sustainable exploitation of its natural resources, and contributing to the scientific knowledge of the natural resources of the island. The team of staff and volunteers patrol the beaches of Sal island during the nesting months from June to October to protect the turtles and to warn off any poachers. After the eggs have been laid, they are taken to a protected hatchery, again manned by staff and volunteers to preserve the eggs until they are ready to hatch and to give them the best chance of survival.
Through November and December, the eggs hatch and the baby turtles are released into the sea immediately by the staff and volunteers. This gives them the best chance of survival as the obstacles and threats on the beaches from the nest to the sea are high and a lot of them wouldn’t make it. At 5pm each night, the nests which hatched the previous night are checked as there are usually between 80-100 eggs in each nest and sometimes the ones at the bottom struggle to make it to the surface. This is where you have the chance to see the baby turtles up close before witnessing them being released into the sea which is a truly remarkable experience.
If you plan to visit Cape Verde, I highly recommend visiting Project Biodiversity if you’re around during the nesting or hatching seasons. You do not need to do this via a trip and there is no cost involved apart from a donation or alternatively you can adopt a turtle if you wish.