Largest turtle breeding colony found in Atlantic

Washington: Scientists have found that the Central African country of Gabon is providing an invaluable nesting ground for a vulnerable species of sea turtle considered a regional conservation priority.

The area covering 600 km of Gabon’s coastline has turned out to be the largest breeding colony of Olive Ridley turtles in the Atlantic.

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The study is the first to combine existing monitoring data with a back-to-basics coastal survey of the area.

“Conservation efforts for sea turtles can be hampered by their migratory life cycles. That makes this first population assessment, which covered extensive areas of Gabon’s coast outside of monitored regions, all the more valuable and worthwhile, and demonstrates the importance of focusing beyond intensively monitored beaches,” said Kristian Metcalfe, lead author from Centre for Ecology and Conservation (CEC) at University of Exeter.

Olive Ridley turtles are one of the smallest of the sea turtles and are named for the greenish colour of their shell and skin.

There has been a net decline in the global numbers of the species and they are currently listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

“Our study goes some way to providing the data needed and will help us understand sea turtle distribution, density, population trends and threats as well as allowing the people of Gabon to manage their marine resources more sustainably,” said co-author Brendan Godley from CEC.

“These findings further emphasise the regional and global importance of Gabon’s nesting sea turtle populations and places the country in a better position to support and implement measures to protect them,” concluded co-author Matthew Witt from the University of Exeter.

The study appeared in the journal Biological Conservation.