Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve in the Lubombo TFCA
Latest News2 January 2017
Where Wildness Lives
Imagine one hundred kilometres of deserted beach, seeing both elephants and whales in a single glance, and spotting endangered leatherback and loggerhead turtles silently nesting under cover of night. It’s not unusual in the southern Mozambique section of Africa’s first marine transfrontier conservation area – the Ponta do Ouro-Kosi Bay Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) in the Lubombo TFCA. 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 and protected 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.
In 2015, signage was erected to further safeguard the delicate marine life and coral reefs in the marine reserve. A survey of biodiversity and coral structures of reefs in the northern section of the marine reserve proved to be of priceless ecological value and worth all the protection and monitoring they can get. The marine reserve received two motorbikes and a quad bike from ANAC, funded by the World Bank’s Mozbio project and a jet ski and trailer thanks to the Turing Foundation. Marine guards and community members were trained as skippers, advanced divers and dive masters to increase the efficacy of patrols and law enforcement.
Turtle monitoring took place from September 2015 to March 2016 in the southern part of the country. A total of 1 868 tracks and 1 005 nests were recorded during 2015-16 nesting season. The most abundant were loggerhead turtles (1 600 tracks; 752 nests) and leatherbacks (53 tracks; 46 nests).
From 25-26 November, Centro Terra Viva presented a refresher training course for the 46 turtle monitors who cover the area from Ponta do Ouro to Ponta Mucombo in Mozambique. The training comprised both theory and practical exercises. Also participating were marine guards from Ponta do Ouro, and from Pomene and Bazaruto national parks.