The 2014 turtle campaign has come to an end on the island of Santa Luzia, Cabo Verde.
With three hundred and forty one nests tagged this year; twenty five control nests saw the safe release of roughly 2500 baby turtles into the waters off Francisa and Achados beaches.
The data has been very interesting since the 10 year project began.
2011 saw 289 nests, 2012 saw 1817 nests, 2013 saw 563 nests and 2014 with 341 nests. There is a female bias amongst the numbers born on the beaches of Santa Luzia at the same time there was also found to be a good production of males.
Our patrols with Biosfera 1 have protected the lives of mature females coming to the beaches in the dead of night to nest from poaching. We have saved the lives of hundreds of babies found trapped and disorientated; before the searing heat of the sun could claim them; the ghost crabs denied an easy meal.
Thankfully we did not find any mature females wandering the desert this year as has happened in years past. One mature female was found entangled in fishing nets and safely released back to the ocean.
We would come to release many baby turtles, brought to the safety of our basecamp to be released at sundown.
The baskets loaded with babies is covered; in darkness, resting. Atop the sandy dunes, the sand golden as the sun lowers into the ocean; removing the cover hundreds of seemingly inanimate little bodies spring to life.
Smelling the sea air, instinct takes over as they clamber over one another in a mad dash for the ocean. Thousands of tiny flippers calving sandy tracks; the surf sweeping in picking up the first arrivals and whisking them off to whatever fate awaits them.
Some are spat out onto the beach, a helping hand assists them past the surf as they attempt to begin the next phase of their new unpredictable life.
Unfortunately, some will not be so fortunate; they will smell and taste the ocean clambering to reach it, they will never feel it envelop them, consumed by the mountains of garbage on Achados beach as they struggle to navigate what should be pristine beach’s to the waiting ocean.
With the basecamp now dismantled; the area returned to its natural state; in the coming days we will return to the north beach of Achados; with the assistance of the navy we aim to spend 7 days removing the most obstructive garbage from the 3km’s of beaches.
We still remain on the island of Raso for the Shearwater juveniles; maintaining a visible anti-poaching presence. The next two weeks will see the birds migrate from the island.
This year’s collaboration between Sea Shepherd and Biosfera 1 has been a fantastic example of co-operation for the preservation of key species within the islands of Santa Luzia and Raso, Cabo Verde.