Jul 14, 2013 News
By Keeran Danny
As conservation efforts are being made to safeguard and track endangered marine turtles, recently five Leatherbacks and one hawksbill turtles were killed by jaguars on Almond Beach.
Romeo De Freitas, Country Coordinator of the Marine Turtle Project, Guyana Marine Turtle Conservation Society (GMTCS) deems it a critical problem, since this is not the first time turtles have been attacked during the nesting season.
He noted that this year’s nesting season commenced in February and is expected to continue until the end of August. And, there has been an increase in the turtle population, with some returning after a number of years.
“Jaguars are on the rampage again. This time killing turtles for almost fun, on June 27, two Leatherbacks were killed; June 29 one leatherback; on July 2 one more leatherback; on July 7 one Hawksbill and the last incident was recorded on the July 9 where one leatherback was again a victim,” De Freitas said.
He recalled that during the last nesting season this problem was encountered.
“By mid-February 2012 we had recorded four Green turtles killed by Jaguars on Almond Beach. However, because of our regular patrolling presence, that activity had been quitted.”
According to De Freitas, residents have raised numerous concerns about their safety. As such, Rangers are trying to patrol the beach at nights from 19:00hrs to 06:00hrs.
“Our new motto ‘save the turtles and protect the Jaguar’ and generally keep an eye over the community, especially at night.”
He related that over the years GMTCS has been working along both governmental agencies and local stakeholders in having Shell Beach become a Protected Area. Now the conservation body is faced with challenges to save the endangered animals that live within that area.
“In partnership with donor World Wildlife Fund (WWF), GMTCS has now placed two cameras on the beach, around the area where attacks are frequent, which can or will be able to assist us in determining the amount of jaguars… or if it’s the same one which has been attacking the nesting turtles, he added.
De Freitas has been involved in the conservation of marine turtles since 1988, at the age of 17. He is pleased to see the results of the turtle population recovery, and is even happier to live to witness the true life behaviour of wild animals.
“It’s sad to see turtles being killed by jaguars and is remarkable to have the food chain continue in a Protected Area,” he added.
De Freitas requested of the Protected Area Commission, Ministry of Natural Resources, and all the supportive agencies, “let’s not kill the Jaguars, but eliminate the turtle meat and eggs market, mainly in Moruca and Mabaruma sub-district, and have the new Protected Area laws implemented that govern these Critically Endangered Species.”
According to Sopheia Edghill, Marine Turtle Conservation Officer of WWF, there has been a noticeable reduction in the poaching of marine turtles and their by-products. However, there is still a lot more work to be done as there are cultural issues relating to the consumption of turtle products. The work on sensitizing communities needs to be continued.
She noted that the population growth for Leatherbacks has increased by an average of 85 percent whilst Green turtles have increased by 70 percent, Hawksbill by 80 percent and Olive Ridley by an average of about 30 percent.
According to Edghill, in 1999 WWF began collaborating with the Guyana Marine Turtle Conservation Society (GMTCS) on the conservation and protection of marine turtles. This continues to date; however, WWF has been involved in other marine turtle conservation activities.
Edghill said the sums allocated by WWF vary, depending on specific projects executed within the programme. However an average of $7.6M has been dedicated to activities of this programme, specifically at Shell Beach, Region One. These activities include but are not limited to Monitoring and Conservation, and Education and Awareness activities.
Edghill related that monitoring and evaluation visits are made regularly to ensure all programme activities are executed as outlined. Annual data counts are corroborated with quarterly technical and financial reports. Additionally, during visits, workshops are held where presentations are made to surrounding communities discussing the work undertaken, she added.
According to Edghill, several measures are in place to protect turtles including direct monitoring; conducting ocean patrols; tagging of marine turtles; education and awareness; closed season for fishing vessels; and campaigns and stimulation of alternative activities to turtle poaching as a means of income generation for dependent local communities.
She noted that the collective measures that are in place are effective. Mortality rates from entanglement in fishers’ nets have reduced, giving rise to a significant increase in the number of turtles that come ashore.
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