Over the years, the critically endangered Leatherback and threatened Loggerhead turtle have seen a decline in their numbers due to poaching on the KwaZulu-Natal coast. Through the efforts of the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, a monitoring project has helped to see a decline in turtle poaching in the area, but these sea creatures aren’t out of the woods yet.
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What’s at risk?
For years, these two turtle species have nested on the coast of the iSimangaliso Wetlands Park, but have seen their numbers drop due to poachers killing them for meat and taking their eggs. Turtle poaching in the area was so bad in 1963 that only 6 nesting leatherbacks and around 200 loggerheads were recorded in the area. That same year a turtle monitoring programme was established by Ezemvelo Wildlife. Today it is called the Ezemvelo Turtle Monitoring Programme and it aims to tackle turtle poaching in the area. The monitoring programme employs members from the local Maputaland community to watch over these vulnerable animals. To date, it is one of the world’s longest running and most successful marine turtle conservation programmes.
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As a result, the Loggerhead turtles have seen a significant increase in numbers while the Leatherback population is stabilising. As there are only 76 nesting Leatherback and 935 Loggerhead turtles visiting our shores annually, there is a definite need to keep this project up and running.
“This programme is not only crucial for the survival of the Loggerhead and Leatherback Turtle populations, but also very important for the local communities who are truly invested in it. A programme such as this does not only create jobs, it also creates custodians of nature and wildlife, ambassadors that truly believe in the conservation and protection of unique, biodiverse areas such as the iSimangaliso Wetland Park,” commented Lauren van Nijkerk of the WILDTRUST.
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Why protect the turtles?
Turtles play an important rile in maintaining the health of the world’s oceans. This includes maintaining productive coral reef systems, as well as transporting essential nutrients from the oceans to beaches and coastal dunes.
How can you help?
In partnership with WILDOCEANS, a programme of WILDTRUST, the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has launched a crowdfunding campaign through the philanthropic crowdfunding platform Different.org. The campaign hopes to raise R300 000 for the programme by the end of December 2018. If you’d like to donate, visit the campaign’s page on Different.org.
Words Courtesy of WILDTRUST
Photography Roger de la Harpe