One of the projects of the Tropical Research & Conservation Centre (TRCC) is the community-based conservation of globally endangered sea turtles that are nesting along the Akassa coast in Southern Nigeria.
Target Species are the Leatherback Sea Turtle, Green Sea Turtle, Olive Ridley Sea Turtle and the Hawksbill Sea Turtle.
Akassa is a remote Atlantic coastal area in Bayelsa State spanning an area of 450 km² at the base of the Niger Delta in Nigeria. The territory includes major estuaries of the Niger River from East to West and has an adjacent sea area within Nigerian territorial waters of approximately 9600 km² that runs inland from the Atlantic seaboard to three beach ridge islands between Brass Estuary and the Fish town. It holds beaches with the nesting grounds of three globally endangered sea turtles: the Leatherback Sea Turtle, the Green Sea Turtle, and the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle.
It is in the coastal-front beaches of these islands that populations of sea turtles come during nesting season, mainly between October and April. Local poachers vigorously hunt sea turtles and rob their nests during the egg-laying season, bringing considerable damage to the endangered species’ reproducing female populations, their nesting grounds, and potential hatchlings. The poor situation of the Akassa people,
and a poor awareness on the conservation status and needs of sea turtle populations continues to bring great pressure on migrating sea turtles and nesting females and their potential hatchlings.
Akassa’s ljaw people are spread out across 19 villages. Their livelihoods depend mainly on the extraction of natural resources from the nearby forests and seashore. Fishing and hunting are the main economic activities along with mangrove exploitation and, in recent years, some subsistence rice cultivation. Mangrove forests and local terrestrial forests are beginning to exhibit signs of terminal exhaustion, with mangroves cut down and used as firewood for households and commercial fish drying, and the terrestrial forests cleared for use as lumber for house-building and canoe carving. The mangrove area which has also served as breeding ground for some important wildlife species (sea turtles, west African manatee, crocodiles etc.) and other important edible species such as fish, crab, frogs, lobsters and periwinkle, is continuously destroyed without restoring it.
The project’s targets are the following:
Developing local regulations on sea turtle hunting and predation;
Setting up community-based patrolling to reduce or prevent further sea turtle hunting and nest predation;
Collection of information on visiting sea-turtles, number of nests, timing and nesting locations;
Protection of female breeding populations and their hatchlings when these leave their nests and head for the water;
Introducing sustainable livelihood alternatives for former poachers other than sea turtle hunting, such as fishing, snail farming, bee farming and agro forestry;
Provide awareness and education to support conservation of the endangered sea turtles throughout the region. School children (after being sensitized) will help in distributing turtle flyers /posters to their parents/guardians at home;
Restore degraded mangrove that serves as an important breeding area for the turtles and other animal species. through tree planting (mangrove regeneration) combined with some economic tree species.
A group of approx. 20 young community volunteers will be trained and engaged in these targets.
Threatened turtle species occurring in Nigeria need to be protected. Nigeria is signatory to the 1999 Memorandum of Understanding Concerning Conservation Measures for Marine Turtles of the Atlantic Coast of Africa. Omogolo Wildlife Trust has agreed to raise funds for the project and we ask you to help by making a donation. Your full donation goes to the project. The project manager signs a donation certificate before the funds are transferred, and signs again a proof of receipt. Your money will be well spent on this project!
Riding on mommy's back...
Sensitization of the local youth
School children distributing flyers