Marine Turtles in KwaZulu Natal - Threats
Under the leadership of Dr George Hughes, the NPB launched an intensive rescue operation, immediately mounting shore patrols to count nestings and tag females and hatchlings. This marked the beginning of what is now globally acclaimed as one of the planet's leading turtle monitoring projects.
Only 5 female leatherbacks recorded nesting
Reflecting the dire circumstances of the time, only 5 female leatherbacks were recorded nesting during the 1966/67 season (mid-October to mid-March). Recognizing the need to work with the local community, the NPB immediately began engaging and working with local villagers - a move that had an immediate and long lasting impact on everyone concerned - and the turtle populations themselves.
Current threats and challenges
Every life cycle phase of marine turtles is impacted upon by human activities. Turtles use both coastal areas and the high seas, where humans' activities are ever increasing. Therefore, no part of their habitat is safe for them.
- Nesting - harvesting (egg collecting, and slaughtering for meat), and habitat disturbance or destruction through coastal development, sand mining, and beach driving.
- Home ranges (coral reefs, seas grass beds, open oceans) - These are disturbed or destroyed - as 'bycatch' in bad fishery practices, by pollution and global warming.
- Migrational Movements - During migrations the turtles are threatened with being caught, also as bycatch, in trawl or drift nets, and long lines.
Since the early 2000s the turtles are facing increasing pressure from tourism - with more visitors and locals going onto the beaches at critical nesting times. This requires more sophisticated management, education and beach protection to protect the turtles and their nests.
In 1996, Mexican authorities seized a truck containing 500,000 olive ridley eggs collected illegally from an important marine turtle rookery...