Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve in the Lubombo TFCA
Latest News17 August 2016
Protecting turtles in Africa's marine TFCA
Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve had another successful turtle monitoring season this year. The reserve comprises the Mozambican component of the Ponta do Ouro-Kosi Bay TFCA, Africa's first cross-border marine reserve, in the Lubombo TFCA. The turtle monitoring programme links up with the one across the border in South Africa's iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a World Heritage Site, where turtles have been monitored since 1963. read more
Watch the exquisite marine life of the reserve here
In August 2008, the Mozambican government submitted the marine reserve to UNESCO for inclusion in its tentative list of properties to be considered for World Heritage Site nomination during the ensuing years.
On 14 July 2009, the government declared a 678 km² marine protected area, stretching from Ponta do Ouro in the south to the Maputo River Mouth in Maputo Bay in the north. The Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve stretches three nautical miles into the Indian Ocean and includes the waters around Inhaca Island and Portuguese Island.
The marine reserve has a rich diversity of marine life and is the most important leatherback and loggerhead turtle nesting ground along the Mozambican coast. Leatherbacks are the largest sea turtles and are classified as critically endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), while loggerhead turtles have been classified as endangered. To monitor and protect the turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs, a marine monitoring programme was established to augment the programme that has been in place since 1994, thanks to Pierre Lombard and his family.
Since December 2007, members of the communities of Ponta do Ouro, Milibangalala, the Machangulo Peninsula, Malongane and Mamoli have been trained as turtle monitors by the Association for Coastal and Marine Research, Centro Terra Viva and the management of the marine reserve, supported by Peace Parks Foundation and its donors, notably Fondation Prince Albert II of Monaco. After the training the monitors have been employed for the season. The initiative also aims to raise awareness and improve understanding within the communities in an effort to further protect the turtles.
Throughout the nesting season, stretching from October to the end of March, the reserve management and turtle monitors undertake vehicle and foot patrols of the turtle nesting sites to protect the nesting females and their eggs and monitor the number of nesting females. The monitors also collect data on the turtles, including how many of them have been tagged, the size of the animals, whether they were laying eggs or not and, if the animals were not sighted, how many tracks there were. During the hatching stage, the monitors note the number of eggs hatched. The presence of the monitors is considered vital for the protection of the turtles. The reserve's turtle-monitoring programme links up with the one across the border, in South Africa’s iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a World Heritage Site, where turtles have been monitored since 1963.
The marine reserve headquarters were opened in 2011 and the management plan and community action plan have been approved. With support from the Turing Foundation, two all-terrain vehicles were purchased in 2014 for beach patrols by the marine rangers. Also in 2014, 20 years of turtle monitoring and conservation in Mozambique were celebrated.
Signage was erected to further safeguard the delicate marine life and coral reefs in the marine reserve. The signage spells out what is allowed in the various zones, i.e. multiple-use area, restricted area or marine sanctuary, making it easy for visitors to see which activities are freely allowed, which ones need special permits and which ones are prohibited.
Marine biologists from Centro Terra Viva and Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve conducted an annual reef survey in the marine reserve. In just four dives, the biologists identified more than 60 species of reef fish. These included three species of sharks, namely the grey reef shark, the zebra shark and the tawny nurse shark. Until now, the reef surveys had been concentrated in the southern section of the marine reserve, i.e. from Techobanine to Ponta do Ouro. This year the survey aimed to select new monitoring stations of the reefs in the northern sections of the marine reserve to complement the ongoing monitoring programme. Thanks to the partnership between Centro Terra Viva and the marine reserve, through the National Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC), an initial survey of biodiversity and the coral structures of reefs was conducted. These reefs in the northern section of the marine reserve have proven to be of priceless ecological value and worth all the protection and monitoring they can get.
The marine reserve manager coordinated the monitoring of the 2014/15 turtle nesting season, which ended on 31 March 2015. Collaborators in this year’s effort were Centro Terra Viva, Pierre Lombard and family, Machangulo Group, Dolphin Encountours, White Pearl Resort, Petromoc and Toyota. During the season there were 1 997 recordings of loggerhead turtles and 67 of leatherback turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs — a turtle may return more than once. Altogether 843 loggerhead and 42 leatherback hatchlings were recorded. The trend of data collected since 2007 indicates that the numbers for loggerhead turtles are increasing and that those for leatherback turtles are stable.
In the last quarter, the marine reserve received two motorbikes and one quad bike from ANAC, funded by the World Bank’s Mozbio project. Thanks to the Turing Foundation, the reserve also received a jet ski and trailer. In December, in partnership with Centro Terra Viva and funded by Peace Parks Foundation, two marine guards and two community members were trained as skippers. A further two marine guards and two community members were also trained as advanced divers and dive masters, respectively. The equipment and training will increase the efficacy of patrols and law enforcement.