The loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) is one of five species of sea turtle recorded from Cape Verde, but the only one that breeds there, on many of the islands' beaches. The Cape Verde loggerhead turtle population is considered the third largest in the world, after Florida and Oman. Most of the population breeds on Boavista, but the species also breeds on the island of Santa Luzia, one of the three islands forming the Protected Sea Area of Santa Luzia in Cape Verde.
If the sea area might be officially protected, sea turtles are nonetheless regularly threatened by natural predators ... and by the action of man. Despite full legal protection of the adults and eggs throughout Cape Verde since 2005 and the development of a National Plan for the Conservation of Marine Turtles in 2010, which have reduced pressures, poachers do continue to hunt adults for meat, collect their eggs and there is some use of sea turtle shells for local crafts and of parts as aphrodisiacs. Uncontrolled tourist activity on some nesting beaches is also a concern. These practices reduce the population of loggerhead turtles and if left as such, could have severe effects on the eastern Atlantic Ocean population, for which Cape Verde is by a long way the most important breeding area. For six years now, Jose and his son Tommy have decided to react and protect the turtles of Santa Luzia. They created their association Biosfera I in 2006 and have led campaigns for surveillance and monitoring. These campaigns raise awareness among fishermen on the negative impacts of their actions. They gradually cease to collect turtle eggs and eventually also contribute to their protection. The surveillance and monitoring campaigns help create a database to better understand trends in the populations of turtles and the threats they face.
In the words of Tommy, the purpose of these campaigns is to "protect the nests against human and natural threats to ensure the reproduction of turtles. Everyone wins: the turtles, the ecosystem and the general public! "
My name is Tommy Melo and this is my father Jose. We are Cape Verdeans from the island of Sao Vicente, which is located next to the three islands of the Protected Sea Area of Santa Luzia. I used to spend my free time diving and spearfishing. The fascination for nature, especially for the sea, has always guided me.
Today, given the degradation of our natural resources in Cape Verde, I’ve decided to abandon my arrows and dedicate myself to protecting our ecosystem. Together with my father I conduct on the island of Santa Luzia annual monitoring campaigns and ongoing surveillance from May to November of Turtles. In addition, through exhibitions on the diversity of wildlife and also - unfortunately - on its degradation, we sensitize our fellow citizens on the importance of protecting our natural resources.
With your donation, we will acquire the necessary equipment to strengthen our monitoring campaigns for loggerhead turtles on the island of Santa Luzia. This includes safety and communication equipment at sea such as lamps, buoys, radios and GPS.
With your donation, you will help protecting many loggerhead turtle nests (about 50 hatchlings per nest).
Through Biosfera, you will encourage the participation of the fishing community in the ecological management of the islands. For this project, Tommy has the support of FIBA , and, in particular, their ecopartners Mériaux Simon and Julien Semelin. They have expertise and experience in support of protected sea areas and local actors.
Haïder El Ali is one of the most prominent ecological figures in West Africa. Driven by his firm conviction and willingness, he devotes every day to preserve the ecosystem of his country. He leads the Oceanium Association in Senegal, and travels to every corner of West Africa in order to convince everyone through discussion, organizing or action to preserve the sea and its resources, as well as the rivers and the forests.
Dear Ecofund Community, please find below the accounts of expenditures for the projects Razo Birds and Sea Turtles in Cape Verde.
Thanks to your donations, the project team has been able to procure the necessary equipement for the monitoring of turtles and birds.
Many THANKS to all contributors!!!
Biosfera I, our Champions from Cape Verde, share with us photos from their turtles (Caretta caretta) monitoring campaigns on the Santa Luzia Island.
For several years now, Jose and his son Tommy undertake campaigns for surveillance and monitoring. These campaigns raise awareness among fishermen on the negative impacts of their actions. They gradually cease to collect turtle eggs and eventually also contribute to their protection. The surveillance and monitoring campaigns help also create a database to better understand trends in the populations of turtles and the threats they face. The photos below show:
Thanks a lot to the Community of Ecofund for its support to the projects of Jose and Tommy.
In particular, we would like to thank the singer Mariana Ramos, ambassador of the Cape Verde’s music.
From the early beginning of the fundraising, Mariana joined our side to help protect the biodiversity of its native Cap Verde ilands. Big “abrazo” and many thanks to Mariana!
Follow Marianna on www.mariana-ramos.com
With your donation, Jose and Tommy will be able to acquire the necessary equipment, in particular portable units for desalination of seawater, for the monitoring campaign for the birds on the island of Razo and turtles on the island of Santa Luzia. The monitoring campaign will start in Mai and last till November.
Many thanks to the 21 contributors from Norway, Germany, France, UK and Senegal !
Biosfera I has started its monitoring and surveillance program on the island of Santa Luzia. We have just received some photos showing the camp and the protected turtle nests.
Wild cats on the island can be a serious predator to the turtles. Nuno Oliveira from Portugal is coaching Biosfera I staff on monitoring the cats in order to prevent them from eating the young turtles.
Summer has arrived!
If you go to Cape Verde between June and September, you might be lucky enough to admire sea turtles laying their eggs on the beach… unfortunately, far from these beautiful scenery, summer is also the season when turtles get slaughtered: in the early morning, you may find bloody turtle shells or, less shocking but also devastating, looted nests emptied from their eggs. It’s summertime all right… and it’s now or never to support Tommy’s project!
Coveted for their meat, a key ingredient for traditional soups and meals, sea turtles are during the summer the main focus of attention for those who hunt them, as well as for those who protect them. It is a true night game of cat and mouse, occurring every year. Tommy and Jose are among those who tirelessly organize campaigns in order to dissuade potential hunters and raise awareness among tourists, by explaining how quads can be dangerous since these four-wheel motorbikes can destroy nests.
If Cape Verdean legislation has been prohibiting the capture, possession, trade and consumption of sea turtles since 2005, hunters and traders seem to have in fact little to fear. The meat is sometimes openly sold, and some beliefs die hard, especially the one about the turtle penis’ aphrodisiac virtues. This belief is good for trade… and pushes fishermen to capture male turtles at sea.
Capture during nesting directly endangers the existence of the species. It is not however the only threat. More insidious, less brutal, other threats are probably even deadlier for sea turtles in Cape Verde: the proliferation of tourist resorts and housing complexes along the beaches, the coastal pollution with plastic waste or fishing nets, or the destruction of beaches in order to extract the sand needed for concrete production.
The species most present in Cape Verde is the majestic loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), that Tommy’s project tries to protect. In full spawning season, your donation will help protect their nests, which means about 50 hatchlings per nest!
Do not wait any longer!
Our Cape Verde Champions celebrated on 22nd Mai the World Biodiversity Day:
Tommy and José met with all school children of Sao Vicente on the beach to show case Cape Verde’s biodiversity, discuss their problems and motivate the children to preserve their beautiful natural heritage.
We want our Cape Verde champions, Tommy and Jose, to succeed with their ecoprojects. Thus, we have prolonged the deadline to give you enough time to contribute to their ecoproject, and to so to help protecting sea birds and marine turtles of the Santa Luzia archipelago.
Remember: Mariana Ramos, Cape Verde’s music ambassador offers the 25 most generous donors an autographed copy of her latest album!
Born in Sao Vicente, Tommy grew up in Brazil, his mother’s home country, and then came back to Cape Verde. After studying Biology and Oceanography in Portugal and the Azores, Tommy returned to his native Island. This time, he is planning to stay and is committed to protect biodiversity. To get to know him better, we asked him a few questions:
1. How come you’re so committed to protecting nature?
My family lives in true harmony with nature. I’ve always been taught to respect its value and I love and respect all living creatures. I must admit I have a soft spot for loggerhead turtles: I’d do anything for them to keep them wandering through our waters, and nesting in our sand!
2. You dive a lot: do you see lots of turtles?
This reminds me of one time, when I was diving with my dad and uncle. We found a huge turtle, probably weighing more than 80 kgs: it had been captured and tied to a buoy by fishermen who had then left it there. We must have spent more than an hour trying to free the poor anima… it was in a lot of pain, especially when my dad tried to cut the cables incrusted in its flesh. When the last loop finally freed the turtle, it started swimming away, towards the open ocean… exhausted but satisfied, we watched this giant regain its freedom.
But all of a sudden, it made a u- turn and swam back towards us. All I can tell you is that we were a bit scared: such an animal could have caused some severe damage! It got so close we could touch it… we didn’t move. It was just incredible: the giant stopped and for a split second, that seemed to last forever, it looked deep into our eyes, we felt like a wave of heat, an obvious connection with the grateful animal… which then dived back into the blue. I will never forget this moment of pure magic.
3. You work with your father on these projects. How is the collaboration going?
My father and I, we think and act almost as if we were one person, which gives us the advantage of being in two places at once! We have our differences but he is my best friend, no doubt about that. We often meet up to observe the environment, in silence, and we can see and understand things that most people do not realize. I value family a lot, even if I’m not married yet… I guess I don’t have enough time to court a woman as she deserves! I am always traveling, and I can spend months in the Protected Sea Area of Santa Luzia.
4. If peers who sponsor your projects come to Sao Vicente, what do you advise them to do?
My favorite place is the area of the ancient volcanoes of Calhau because the underwater nature is still pretty wild there. Otherwise, make sure to dive to see sharks up close, it is fantastic! Also, you should not forget to enjoy the famous St. Vincent’s nights! You can go have dinner at a local restaurant, enjoy a wonderful grilled fish or a lobster… while listening to live music! Hey, maybe you’ll be lucky enough to hear Mariana Ramos, our Ecofund sponsor of honor!
The Ecofund-team met with Jorge Melo, a well-known environmental activist in Calhau, Sao Vincente, one of Cape Verde’s islands. Jorge is the brother of our champion José Melo.
Each year he saves about 50 see turtles from the death caused by fisher nets.
In this video, he shows us 3 loggerhead turtles he recently saved.
A shark has cut off the turtles’ front leg (the flipper) while they were imprisoned by a fisher net. After several weeks of recuperation in “Jorge’s turtles’ hospital”, the youngest and the most active turtle will be released tomorrow to its natural environment.