Turtle monitoring project - Achievements
23 consecutive years of dedicated service
- It is one of the first Projects in the world to demonstrate the successful recovery of marine turtle populations as a result of rigorous protection. The populations of the loggerhead and leatherback marine turtles that nest in the area have been brought back from the brink of extinction. There are now approximately 1500 loggerheads and 200 leatherbacks venturing ashore to successfully nest every year. The numbers increased steadily throughout the past four decades, although the rate of increase now appears to be 'levelling out'. Almost 47,000 loggerhead and 12,000 leatherback females have nested on the beaches of the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park during the life of the Project.
- Substantial important scientific information has been obtained about the biology, nesting and non-nesting behaviours and distribution range of these two globally threatened flagship species. Additional data has also been collected on such parameters as strandings, tag returns, illegal poaching, and foreign activity.
- The Project was a key catalyst behind the Park's listing as a World Heritage Area in 1999.
- The significant role of the Agulhas Current in the distribution of marine turtle hatchlings has been established.
- The species-focused conservation effort has been magnified to contribute to the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the area.
- Management actions have been implemented and improved in line with international conventions and best-practice guidelines.
- International recognition and collaboration has been obtained for both the research into and management of breeding populations of marine turtles - which has provided guidelines for other conservation activities in the South Western Indian Ocean.
- The Project has served to increase public awareness and create tourism benefits for local communities and visitors along the Park's beaches.
- EKZN Wildlife is currently preparing a Management Plan for Marine Turtles which will encompass such key areas as: long-term monitoring, habitat protection, coastal development guidelines, tourism operators' best practice, and guidelines for hatchery and fishery practices.
- Efforts are being made to investigate other turtle-based activities, which might contribute towards sustainable livelihoods during the non-nesting months (between March and October). One such activity is the Sustainable Harvests Project - which is helping to make traditional users livelihoods practices more sustainable by means of more sustainable methods of catching fish (intertidal fishing with fish traps and fishing rods instead of gill nets), and collecting and gathering other marine resources. The local fishers are gradually adopting the lower-impact methods.
...populations of loggerhead and leatherback marine turtles that nest in the area have been brought back from the brink of extinction...