Friday, August 22, 2014

First report of olive ridley sea turtle nesting on Boa Vista!

In the morning hours of Sunday, 11 August 2014, our beach patrolling team on the north-west coast of Boavista, Cape Verde, made a sensational discovery: An olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) crawled ashore and started to dig her nest as if this would be the most normal thing in the world. However, this species has never been reported to have nested anywhere in the Cape Verde archipelago!


The Cape Verde islands are the 3rd largest nesting rookery of the endangered loggerhead sea turtle. Since the beginning of this year’s nesting season teams of the Turtle Foundation were patrolling every night on various beaches of Boa Vista Island to protect female nesting turtles females from illegal poaching. At 3 o’clock a.m, field coordinator of our Boa Esperanza beach camp, Ariadna Arnau from Spain, started the last night patrol for the evening for what should have be a normal tour to protect, observe, and gather data, on the beaches of Aqua Doce and Ponta de Sol. However, she and her companion, the Cape Verdean volunteer Emanuel Lima, had absolutely no clue about the stunning surprise this patrol was about to discover.

It was a clear, bright night, and the near full moon provided excellent visibility. Ariadna and Emanuel had already observed a few loggerhead turtle nesting activity from their distinctive tracks in the sand and reported them as usual into their note books. Shortly before dawn, the shift was already approaching its end, Ariadna suddenly noticed a turtle emerging from the turbulent sea and crawling directly ashore. Ariadna and Emanuel instantly freezed and sat down in the warm sand of the beach, because they know that a turtle attempting to nest can easily be disturbed and would then quickly vanish into the sea again. Thus, before they could approach the turtle to mark it and obtain some biological data of this turtle, they had to wait patiently until the turtle finished digging her nest and begins to lay her eggs. In this situation turtles fall into a kind of “egg laying trance”, and can then be carefully approached without much danger to interrupt her nesting activity. As the movements of the turtle indicated that she already started to depose her eggs, Ariadna and Emanuel slowly sneaked up from behind the animal. But wow, this turtle looked so different! Ariadna and Emanuel were quickly remembering that last year a green turtle was observed nesting on Boavista, and that was a very extraordinary incident. However, this turtle couldn’t be a green turtle, it was far too small! Ariadna and Emanuel checked the turtle again and again, judged the size and the shape of her carapace, counted its scutes, and examined the scales of the head. There was no doubt anymore: This was an olive ridley turtle!

Olive ridleys are still one of the most common turtle species in the world, however endangered with decreasing population as are the other six species. They are also the smallest sea turtles together with their close relatives, the very rare Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, and commonly weigh not more than 50 kg, significantly less than a loggerhead. Olive ridleys are worldwide distributed throughout the tropic and subtropic parts of the oceans and nest on numerous beaches with largest abundances on the Pacific coasts of Central America, and in India. In some places olive ridleys are famous for their mass nesting behaviour, called arribadas.

On the Cape Verde islands however there is definitely no arribada; instead, this turtle is the first olive ridley ever reported to nest in this area! Of course, Ariadna and Emanuel were utterly excited about their discovery, and with shaking hands they fulfilled the standard procedures of measuring and marking the animal with flipper tags and a tiny electronic transponder, recorded the geographical data via GPS, and they took a small tissue sample that should be later analysed in the lab. The turtle was dismissive about these procedures and without any sign of agitation she continued to cover her eggs with sand, steadily alternating her flipper movements in the famous olive ridley nesting dances. As Ariadna and Emanuel finally wanted to photograph the turtle to document this unique event, they suddenly realised that they didn’t carry a camera! Emanuel immediately started to run to the camp like hell to fetch one, while Ariadna stayed with the turtle. He returned completely scant of breath, while luckily the turtle was still in place. Meanwhile, dawn had already broken, and the rising sun spent sufficient light for a great photo session! Finally, the olive ridley was satisfied with covering her nest, and with a surprising quick pace, owing to her lightweight, she headed briskly to the sea, entered the breaking waves, and was gone. Ariadna and Emanuel were contemplatively looking after her for a long time – will she come back some day?

The message of an olive ridley turtle nesting on Boavista soon spread like a wildfire through our camps and was also a sensation among other turtle conservation organisations on Cape Verde. We surrounded the nest with its 120 eggs, which we counted during the egg laying procedure, with a little fence so that it was secured from predators. We are now very eagerly awaiting the emergence of the first olive ridley turtles known to hatch on a Cape Verde island – 50 thrilling days of usual egg incubation time are in front of us! We will inform you about the hatching success, please stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Former dynamite fisherman now protects the reef

Abdul Karim Laing lives in a tiny village called Berungus in Sabah province, on the north coast of Malaysian Borneo

Abdul Karim Laing used to be a bomb fisherman. “I started in 1990,” he explains. “My friend was catching a lot of fish – it turned out he was using dynamite and he taught me. I got good at it.”
Laing lives in a tiny village called Berungus in Sabah province, on the north coast of Malaysian Borneo. This is the spectacular but volatile Sulu seascape that separates the southern Philippines from Malaysia.

But the seas off Sabah are also rich in coral reefs and a wide variety of pelagic and reef fish species. Whales and endangered turtles migrate through these waters and elusive dugongs graze on sea grass beds. Most of the coastal communities here derive their income from fishing. And dynamite and cyanide have both proven alarmingly popular amongst small-scale fishers struggling to compete with industrial trawlers and purse seines.
Laing used bombs to catch fish for a decade. The devices were – and still are – common across South East Asia’s 'Coral Triangle', because they’re so easy to make.

According to Laing, all you need is potassium nitrate in the form of fertilizer, gasoline, a beer bottle and phosphorus from matchsticks mixed with the strike-strip to make a rudimentary fuse. They can cost as little as a pound. Lobbed into a shoal, these bottle bombs rupture fishes’ swim bladders, causing them to float to the surface where they are easily collected.
But they also decimate coral reefs – a single beer bottle can blast a crater two to three metres in diameter, while the accompanying rubble stifles surrounding corals, preventing recovery. Sometimes they explode prematurely, maiming or even killing fishermen.

The other favoured method is potassium cyanide. An onboard engine pumps air through a common garden hose to divers who squirt milky clouds of the poison into reefs to stun fish. The coral dies – as do many divers, by staying down too long, going up too quickly and getting the bends.

When representatives from Malaysia’s Department of Fisheries visited his village, Laing quickly changed his thinking.
“They helped me understand that although bombs and cyanide are quick, they kill the coral reefs,” he says. “And if the reefs are gone, the fish will go too.” According to Laing, the people that use bombs and cyanide claim they’re just trying to survive. “But I use nets and lines and it is enough to feed my family. I don’t think it makes life easier if you use bombs.”
Once he understood just how destructive blast fishing was, Laing became passionate about preventing it. With support from the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI), he started patrolling the Berungus Reef.“I have an engine, GPS, binoculars and a petrol allowance,” he says. “And now I’m building a bigger boat for patrolling.”
Thanks to his efforts, the reef has been able to recover, escaping the damage visited on other sites. But being a reef custodian has its perils. In 2008, Laing says eight cyanide fishermen threatened to bury him at sea if he didn’t leave them alone. Hostility hasn’t stopped him though. "If I find people damaging our reef, I ask them to leave. If they won’t, I call the police.”

 Laing is an example of the collaborative management principal that most conservationists agree is the key to making large-scale marine parks like this work.

Today, Laing’s son Kamarudin is working with his father as an Honorary Wildlife Warden. “Every three days or so, he patrols the protected zone,” Laing says with obvious pride. “I’m glad my village is going to prosper in the long term, it’s not going to be threatened. That’s my promise.”

complete article at: The Guardian article on bombing reefs

Friday, June 6, 2014

Turtle Foundation won the Green Project Award in Cape Verde!

The winners of the 1st edition of the GreenProject Awards (GPA) in Cape Verde were officially announced on May 10. The gala to announce the projects that stood out for good environmental practices was taking place in the Grand Hall of the National Assembly.

Dozens of projects participated in this contest of environment friendly practices, which were evaluated by a jury chaired by the General Director of Environment, Moises Borges. According to a note from the Green Project Awards Cape Verde, each of the five categories (Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, Initiatives of Community Mobilization, Natural Resources, New Technology Research and Development, Sustainable Tourism and Agriculture)  had a jury itself, consisting of one coordinator and three persons of recognized intellectual integrity and academic credibility, science and business.

Turtle Foundation Cabo Verde was announced the winner in the category of Natural Resources. The other finalists in this category were the Banco Commercial Atlantico (BCA Garden project) and Vivo Energy Cape Verde (Sustainable Development in Agriculture).

Turtle Foundation collaborators Zé De Aldina Tavares and Ivanilda Duarte receive the Green Project Award in the Grand Hall of the National Assembly of Cape Verde
The Cape Verde GPA is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Environment, Housing and Territorial Planning and GCI – a consultant company specialized in sustainability projects and in mobilizing civil society, businesses and non-governmental organizations for sustainability. The GPA program was launched in 2008 in Portugal and has been internationalized in 2011, first coming to Brazil. In 2013, the initiative was launched in Cape Verde and, by the end of this year, will be extended to Mozambique and Angola.

The Turtle Foundation is very happy to be the winner of this great prize, because it constitutes a symbolic win for turtle conservation in general in Cape Verde.

Friday, May 23, 2014


Turtle Foundation Extra News May 2014

Did you know that today is World Turtle Day? This special day was initiated by the American Tortoise Rescue, an organization dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and protection of tortoises and turtles, and announced in 2000 by the Humane Society International, the largest animal welfare organization worldwide. This day should remind us all of the myriad dangers that threaten one of the oldest groups of animal species in the world. The World Turtle Day is thus a good opportunity for us all to think about how we can actively contribute to the protection of the endangered sea turtles.

Every year millions of tons of waste are littered into our oceans, either disposed directly into the seas or floating through our river systems. Sea turtles often mistake plastics as food, and thousands of turtles die annually from plastic intake. Garbage on the beaches poses a major threat to nesting female turtle and hatchlings. Please never leave trash at the beach; never dispose of plastic or other waste into the sea or rivers. If you encounter particularly problematic items such as fishing lines and nets while walking on the beach, please consider taking them with you and disposing of them safely.

Please do NEVER buy any products made from sea turtles. This especially applies to jewelry made of turtle shell and stuffed sea turtles that unfortunately are still offered in many countries despite it being generally illegal there. Primarily hawksbill turtles are used for this purpose, resulting in hawksbills being particularly threatened with extinction. Be careful because some vendors are even pretend to tourists that their turtle shell bracelets and keyring pendants were made from legal materials! Please refrain from buying any turtle products; importing turtle shell products is prohibited in virtually every country, and can also cause a great deal of trouble at airport customs. The indicated turtle shell bracelet was offered for only 35,000 Indonesian rupiahs (about 2.30 € or 3.00 US$) – still no bargain because to make this product highly endangered animal was killed, and substantial fines would await you at customs.

Perhaps you are fortunate enough to spend your holiday at a sea turtle nesting beach. Please look for a hotel that considers the needs of the turtles. Especially critical is the beachfront lighting, which should be minimized as much as possible. Turtles generally hatch at night and find their way to the sea by using light and reflections from the moon and the stars. Unfortunately, they are seriously disoriented by artificial light – they run in the wrong direction and then often die from desiccation or predation. Adult sea turtles, however, are deterred by artificial light from nesting. Local conservation organizations services are happy to provide you with information how you can further help the turtles and how to behave appropriately in order to not to disturb the turtles.

Maybe you are eager to volunteer in a very successful sea turtle conservation project? We still have vacancies for dedicated helpers on Boavista, Cape Verde. Please apply as soon as possible!

Please also consider a donation, which will be used to the full extent for the protection of our sea turtles. Every Euro/Dollar makes a difference!

Donate now!

Thank you very much for your invaluable help, because indeed every day is turtle day!

With best regards,

Dr. Hiltrud Cordes
Project Manager of Turtle Foundation

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Turtle Foundation Announces Crowdfunding Partnership with

We are excited to announce a new partnership with the crowdfunding website, and we would love to have your help. helps organizations like Turtle Foundation raise money for critically needed projects. For a small donation (think $10 or less) you can make a huge difference. Here’s how you can help:
  1. Visit: and read about our project. We are trying to raise $3000.00 to provide supplies to our beach camps which house our turtle protection volunteers, local school children who attend our education weekend camps, and local ranger trainees.
  2. Click the donate button and give as much as you feel comfortable providing
  3. Tell your friends. Each project has links to social media like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+
  4. Sit back and watch our project get funded and know that you made it happen. Super cool!
Thanks again for all of your support. We really appreciate your help and we thank you for participating in this wonderful new technology with us! 


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A heartening sign

 Former NBA star Yao Ming recently delivered a petition during the opening session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) asking China’s government to ban sales of ivory.  He said, "When the buying stops, the killing can, too"

Thank you, Yao Ming.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Turtle Foundation at the BOOT Düsseldorf

The Turtle Foundation is present at the BOOT in Düsseldorf (Internationale Bootsaustellung Düsseldorf), the world’s largest fair for boats & water sports. You find us from 18.01.–26.01.2014 at the stand of the VDST (Verband Deutscher Sporttaucher, Association of German Scuba Divers) in hall 3, stand B53/B54. Please visit us and take the opportunity to speak with us about sea turtle conservation, about our volunteer programmes, and to buy one of the remaining tickets for our Turtle Raffle 2014. We are very happy to meet you at the BOOT in Düsseldorf!

PS: If you can’t make it to the BOOT, you can still purchase tickets for the Turtle Raffle online. With many great prices to win, all proceeds go into our turtle conservation projects!