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20 years of turtle monitoring and conservation in Mozambique were celebrated in Ponta do Ouro on 19 and 20 November 2014.
The event was organised by the Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve and Centro Terra Viva and supported by Mozambique’s National Administration for Conservation Areas and Peace Parks Foundation. It comprised a two-day workshop between the government officials, private sector entities, NGOs, personnel and individuals supporting the turtle monitoring programme.
The evening of the 19th was spent witnessing the turtles coming ashore to nest. It was a wonderful turtle night where participants witnessed 35 tracks and 15 loggerhead turtle, 50% of which were tagged for the first time. Also participating were Dr Scotty Kyle, from the adjacent iSimangaliso Wetland Park in South Africa, where turtles have been monitored and protected since 1963, and Dr George Hughes.
In 1994, with support and mentorship from Dr George Hughes and Dr Scotty Kyle from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife in South Africa, Mr Pierre Lombard and his family started the marine turtle monitoring and conservation programme in the southern section of Mozambique’s coastline.
In 2009, the government of Mozambique 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 nesting ground for marine turtles in Mozambique. The marine reserve headquarters were opened in 2011 and the management plan and community action plan approved. The process of proclaiming the marine reserve as a World Heritage Site is continuing.
The marine turtle monitoring programme is an annual event starting in October and ending in March of the following year. The overarching goal of the monitoring is to collect baseline information on the number of nests laid, tag adult females and identify and mitigate threats. Thus, the programme provides quantitative data on the nesting, tagging and mortalities of marine turtles,which is vital for its conservation.
Despite being prohibited by law for almost 50 years, turtle poaching and egg collection continue to be unfortunate realities in Mozambique. Year-round patrolling is therefore necessary and encompasses a major educational and awareness-raising component when rangers interact with local communities.
From Ponta do Ouro to Ponta Santa Maria, 46 local community members are employed as monitors, under direction of the marine reserve. Community members are trained annually and daily foot patrols are conducted during the turtle nesting and hatching season, between October and March.
The programme works in collaboration with a number of organisations that actively support the marine reserve’s endeavors. These include Centro Terra Viva, Pierre Lombard and Family, Machangulo Group, Dolphin Encoutours, White Pearl Resort, PETROMOC, Total and Toyota.
Thank you to the donors supporting the programme: Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, Principality of Monaco and Turing Foundation.
Story by Miguel Goncalves
Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve