Can Artificial Intelligence Help Pinch Poachers?
31 October 2019
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.
Throughout the season reserve management and community members, trained as turtle monitors, undertake vehicle and foot patrols of the turtle nesting sites, the primary goal being to protect the nesting females and their eggs and also to monitor the number of nesting females, and later on the hatchlings.
In the 2015–16 season, a total of 1 868 tracks and 1 005 nests were recorded. The most abundant were endangered loggerhead turtles (1 600 tracks; 752 nests) and critically endangered leatherbacks (53 tracks; 46 nests). The reserve is an important nesting area for loggerheads, with 98.6% of all tracks and 99.7% of all nests recorded, and leatherbacks, with 94.3% of all tracks and 95.6% of all nests recorded along Mozambique’s 2 470 km coastline.
The leatherback turtle is named for its unique shell which is composed of a layer of thin, tough, rubbery skin, strengthened by thousands of tiny bone plates. It is the largest marine turtle, measuring up to 2 m in length and weighing up to 900 kg. Leatherbacks migrate an average of 6 000 kilometers each way between their breeding and feeding area, at speeds of up to 35 km per hour. They can dive to depths of 1 280 meters and can stay down for up to 85 minutes.
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 90 m 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 hatched to lay their eggs.