Pandemic peace brings new life to threatened Senegalese turtles

A protecting cage shields a inexperienced turtle nest from beachside predators in Guereo, Senegal, October 13, 2021. Image taken October 13, 2021. REUTERS/Ngouda Dione

GUEREO, Senegal: On a moonlit shore in Senegal, Djibril Diakhate’s night stroll got here to an sudden halt when his torch revealed greater than 140 child turtles clambering from their nest and sprinting in the direction of the glimmering ocean.

“Turtles!” Diakhate shouted, leaping and clapping. The 47-year-old patrols this seashore as much as 75 nights a yr, the utmost incubation time for inexperienced turtles, to maintain predators from their nests till the eggs are able to hatch.

“I’ve at all times been affected by the beginning of those turtles,” he stated. “The primary time I witnessed a hatching, I cried at these creatures of God.”

Hundreds of turtles lay eggs alongside West Africa’s shores every year, however nights like these have change into uncommon in Guereo, the beachside village the place Diakhate lives.

Elevated fishing, tourism and building have left fewer protected nesting grounds for Senegal’s turtles, that are listed as threatened by the Worldwide Union for Conservation of Nature.

Solely two or three turtles have laid their eggs in Guereo lately, whereas dozens did a technology in the past, Diakhate stated.

However seashores have change into quieter throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Fifteen turtles nested on Guereo’s seashore final season, up from two the earlier yr, in response to setting ministry information.

The surge was so nice that Diakhate needed to relocate his restaurant – named “The Turtle Nest” – after a mom turtle laid her eggs.

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Saliou Mbodji, president of the close by Somone Marine Safety Space, attributes the change to COVID-19 restrictions that halted native fishing and tourism for a lot of 2020.

“There weren’t many individuals on the seashores or the inns,” Mbodji stated. “There was much less gentle, so extra turtles got here to put their eggs on the seashores.”

As folks have returned to the seashores, the turtles have withdrawn once more. Seven nests have been found close to Guereo this season – half as many as final yr.
If nesting charges fall to pre-pandemic ranges the ecosystem could possibly be completely broken, stated researchers on the Oceanium conservation group in Dakar, who present protecting cages to protect the nests from predators.
” regulate marine algae by consuming it, and marine algae is depended upon by different species like tuna, lobster and shrimp,” stated Charlotte Thomas, Oceanium’s turtle undertaking supervisor.
“If these turtles have been to vanish, that may create an imbalance within the meals chain and threaten your entire ecosystem.”