The perilous 1,000-mile journey to save Africa’s endangered black rhinos
28 October 2022
Acting as quickly as they could without harming the turtle, the rangers carefully untangled her and set her once again on soft sand. Exhausted from fighting against the net, the turtle could barely inch forward, but luckily the helping hands of the rangers once more helped her into the safety of the water. This is but one of hundreds of turtles saved and protected by the men and women of Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve (PPMR) each year.
The marine reserve is home to a variety of marine fauna and flora, from a myriad of tropical fish, humpback whales, dolphins, sea turtles and dugongs, to healthy seagrass beds and a kaleidoscope of coral reefs.
The most recent national report on turtle conservation released by Centro Terra Viva show that 99.7% of all loggerhead and 95.6% of all leatherback nests in Mozambique occur in PPMR, making it the most important leatherback and loggerhead turtle nesting ground along the country’s coast.
Leatherbacks are the largest sea turtles and classified as critically endangered by the IUCN, while loggerhead sea turtles have been classified as endangered. These wild creatures play an important role in maintaining the health of our oceans and dunes. According to Oceana, sea turtles maintain productive coral reef ecosystems, as well as transport essential nutrients from oceans to beaches and coastal dunes.
PPMR is also Africa’s ’s first marine and coastal transfrontier conservation area (TFCA) – linking the Ponta do Ouro-Inhaca coastline of southern Mozambique with South Africa’s iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a World Heritage Site – all as part of the greater Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation and Resource Area. Peace Parks Foundation has been involved in supporting the Lubombo TFCA since 2002, with our work concentrated on the Mozambican components of the Usuthu-Tembe-Futi TFCA and the Ponta do Ouro-Kosi Bay TFCA. In 2018, the Mozambique Government and Peace Parks signed an agreement to jointly develop PPMR and the adjoining Maputo Special Reserve.
Collaborative efforts by ANAC, Peace Parks, Biofund, and MozBio as funded by The World Bank, have equipped the reserve with dedicated rangers who patrol the 100 km stretch of coastline, day and night. A marine turtle monitoring programme utilises community members trained as monitors to protect the turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs. Various sustainable fishing programmes also enable the reserve to engage with local community members and tourists on the correct fishing methods and equipment to use for minimum disturbance of the marine ecosystem.
Loggerhead turtles are named for their relatively large heads, which support powerful jaws that enable them to feed on hard-shelled prey. They are the largest of the hard-shelled turtles, measuring an average of 90 cm in length and weighing about 115 kg. Adult loggerheads are known to make extensive migrations between foraging areas and nesting beaches. Mature females will often return, sometimes over thousands of kilometres, to the beach where they themselves hatched to lay their eggs.