Threats to Africa's Marine Turtles

Overexploitation of eggs, meat, carapaces, and other products

While in some parts of Africa and Madagascar, turtles have specific cultural values, or slaughter of turtles for consumption of turtle meat is considered taboo, in many areas turtles are regarded as a resource - a source of protein and other products which are consumed or traded locally, and in some cases, provide the materials for artisanal craftsmen. While killing of turtles or nest poaching is illegal in many countries, legislation is rarely enforced, not least due to lack of awareness amongst enforcement officers.

Exploitation of sea turtles is illegal in many African countries but regulations are rarely enforced and traditional use of sea turtle eggs and products such as leather or oil is widespread. The dynamics of trade in these products is largely unknown.

Commercial trade prohibited
While CITES listing of the hawksbill has dramatically reduced international trade of "tortoiseshell", sale of artefacts both domestically and to tourists remains significant in many areas. Some countries such as the Seychelles and Zanzibar have systematically replaced the demand for hawksbill by re-training craftsmen or buying back stock. But in others, carapaces, stuffed turtles and handicrafts are still readily available.

A precautionary approach
Information on the status of individual populations of marine turtles in the region is not sufficient to determine what would be a sustainable level of use, but given the degree of threat to marine turtles, as present it is unlikely that any populations could support sustained use at any significant level.
Marine turtles' skins and boxes made of Marine turtles scales seized at customs. / ©: WWF-Canon /  Wil LUIIJF
Marine turtles' skins and boxes made of Marine turtles scales seized at customs.
© WWF-Canon / Wil LUIIJF

Did You Know?

Of 17 nests reported on the tiny Tanzanian islands of Nyororo, Shungi-mbili and Mbarakuni, fisherman using the island for overnight camps poached 11. Six turtles were slaughtered for meat (Muir, 2001).

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