Threats to Africa's Marine Turtles

Loss and degradation of nesting, inter-nesting, and foraging habitats

Poorly located buildings and other infrastructure development are causing widespread erosion of nesting beaches and disruption of marine turtle nesting as a result of disturbance and beach lighting.

Development of tourist infrastructure is a particular threat, as controls on hotel location are often limited. Hotels are associated with increased human activity on beaches, and with overnight lighting, which disorientates hatchlings normally attracted to the sea by the reflection of the moon.

Impacts of even minor beach developments such as jetties are often felt far down-shore, as sediment transportation is disturbed and beach replenishment blocked.

Degradation of nesting beaches also occurs as a result of pollution, particularly litter which can block the passage of hatchlings to the sea, increasing their exposure to predation by crabs and seabirds.

In some areas the use of vehicles on beaches results in a significant hazard to hatchlings. Foraging areas on coral reefs and seagrass beds are also subject to a wide range of threats ranging from destructive fishing techniques, disturbance by motorised boats, and pollution.

Avoidable threats and impacts
Many of these impacts can be avoided by regulation of beach development, and by simple measures such as the shading of beach lights.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) provide the most complete overall protection for critical habitats such as nesting beaches.
Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) Beach, Bazaruto Island, Mozambique. / ©: WWF-Canon / Frederick J. WEYERHAEUSER
Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) Beach, Bazaruto Island, Mozambique.
© WWF-Canon / Frederick J. WEYERHAEUSER

Did You Know?

Over 30,000 leatherback nests were recorded in Gabon in the 1999/2000 nesting season, indicating this region is of primary importance for worldwide leatherback conservation (CMS/Fretey, 2001).

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