|Town/Region||Varela National Park|
|Categories||Biodiversity, Marine, Reptiles, Turtles|
|Date||27 Jun 2018|
Guinea-Bissau is of major importance for marine turtles, hosting the largest green turtle Chelonia mydas rookery in Africa, top six worldwide. Nesting of olive ridley Lepidochelys olivacea, hawksbill Eretmochelys imbricata, and leatherback Dermochelys coriacea turtles is also common, although the last two occur in small numbers. Loggerhead turles Caretta caretta can also be seen foraging in the waters of Guinea-Bissau. Most nesting occurs at the Bijagós Archipelago, where we have established a monitoring protocol, allowing the collection of important data for the knowledge and management of sea turtles, and assuring protection from poaching at the major nesting beach, at Poilão Island (10.8º N, 15.7º W). However, important nesting also occurs in the mainland and currently there is no protection in place there.
In northwest of mainland Guinea-Bissau, in Varela, region of Cacheu, there is a key nesting area mainly used by green turtles, but also by the critically endangered hawksbill turtle. About 25km of sandy beaches stretch from the mouth of the Cacheu River to the Senegalese border. Several are on barrier islands and others are on the mainland. The region is populated by the Felupe/Jola ethnic group. At least some people in this group did not consume turtles, but recent behavioural changes are discontinuing this tradition, requiring an urgent intervention.
Within the nearby communities we have identified collaborators passionate about participating in conservation and monitoring campaigns. After a training session these collaborators will conduct daily beach surveys and night patrols. We believe from our experience at the Bijagós, and from talking to the community members, that the presence of a team at the nesting beach will halt poaching. As with our previous projects, one main contribution will be the capacity building of local community members, some of which may integrate the IBAP team as full-time employees.
Additionally we are looking for strategies to communicate the conservation work implemented by the Institute of Biodiversity and Protected Areas of Guinea-Bissau (IBAP- GB). One of this strategies will involve the creation of micro-movies to broadcast widely. We expect that this project will contribute to the sustainability of sea turtle conservation in Guinea-Bissau, through the advertisement of its spectacular marine turtle populations and habitats, the successful conservation actions (e.g. at Poilão), and the capacity built of the national conservation staff (past successes include two MSc, and two collaborators hired by the IBAP as full-time employees).
Read about Ana's previous project https://www.rufford.org/projects/rita_patricio_0 or for more information contact: