Project of the Month: Addressing Data Gaps to Improve Sea Turtle Monitoring in Tanzania

Nesting female returns to the sea © Sea SenseBonn,
6 September 2013
- Tanzania supports a small but
critical population of nesting green turtles (Chelonia
mydas
) which face serious threats from anthropogenic
activities in Tanzania’s coastal zone including incidental
capture in fishing gears, illegal exploitation for meat,
oil and eggs and degradation of foraging and nesting habitats
caused by dynamite fishing, coastal erosion and unregulated
tourism development. 

To reverse these population declines, a
number of sea turtle conservation programmes have been implemented
in Tanzania.  However, the true size of the nesting
population in Tanzania is unknown, post-nesting migratory
patterns are yet to be identified and there is no data available
on the location of critical foraging grounds used by green
turtles. The Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), through
its Small Grants Programme provided funds for a project
that addresses these data gaps in order to facilitate the
development of effective sea turtle management and conservation
plans which will also have a positive impact on green turtle
populations in the wider Western Indian Ocean due to their
migratory nature.

Measuring curved carapace length © Sea SenseThe
project is being implemented by Sea Sense with collaboration
from the Fisheries Development Division during the peak
nesting season. Sea Sense is the only NGO dedicated to the
conservation and protection of the marine environment in
Tanzania, and started operating in 2001 as the Turtle and
Dugong Conservation Project..

Since October 2012 funds from CMS small
grants programme have been used to support the daily monitoring
activities of the Conservation Officer network, which is
the group of dedicated people that implements the field
work. During the period October-July 92 green turtle nests
were recorded by these  Officers.  The mean clutch
size has been 113 eggs, and the success rate was 64%. During
this period 4,711 green turtle hatchlings safely reached
the sea.

Since monitoring first began in Temeke
District in 2004, the number of nests recorded for the same
period has doubled, suggesting that the presence of a dedicated
patrol team has had a positive impact and reduced the incidence
of slaughter of nesting females.

Any
nest at risk of predation by wild animals, poaching by humans
or inundation by high tides was relocated to a safe area
by Conservation Officers (according to internationally agreed
protocols).  During the reporting period, 72 nests
were relocated, 68 of which hatched successfully.

The data compiled to date indicates that
the waters around Temeke support a population of juvenile
green turtles but high levels of fishing pressure poses
a threat to their survival.

Another of the activities taking place
during the peak-nesting season in 2013 (April and May),
was a flipper tagging programme that was conducted at the
eight most commonly used nesting beaches in Temeke District.
The goal was to collect data on important population parameters
in order to assess the status of the nesting population
and determine the effectiveness of current conservation
measures.

Deep tracks in the sand indicate nesting attempts  © Sea SenseThe
project involves coastal communities in all aspects of the
sea turtle monitoring programme. Data are collected by community
members who are also responsible for disseminating this
 information to the wider community.  Conservation
Officers liaise closely with village leaders to promote
strong direction and good governance for natural resource
management.  Conservation Officers and village leaders
are involved in the planning of all field activities to
ensure a participatory approach.  Through the strengthening
of this relationship, communities are  developing a
sense of ownership of local resources and attitudes towards
sea turtle conservation are changing.  At monitored
sites, the incidence of deliberate slaughter and nest poaching
has been noted to be in decline. 

 

The project supports implementation of the CMS Memorandum
of Understanding on the Conservation and Management of Marine
Turtles of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia (IOSEA)
of which Tanzania is a signatory state.  

The outcome of the project will be an increased
understanding of key population parameters that can be used
to guide the future development of a national Sea Turtle
Conservation Strategy in Tanzania. 

THE PROJECT OF THE MONTH

During the 2012 round of the Small Grant Programme a total of 75 applications was received and 12 projects were selected for funding. In the coming months each of these projects will be featured on the CMS website in a new “Project of the Month” series that will show the activities that are taking place within each project and the conservation impact on the species concerned.

The Small Grant Programme supports projects that are implemented on the ground with a strong focus on the conservation of species listed in the CMS Appendixes. It shows that CMS can really make a difference when it comes to improving the status of the species concerned working in close contact with the local communities.

During the period 2012-2014 the Programme is being generously funded by UNEP.

Last updated on 16 June 2014

Type: 
News item