The Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa, is beefing up efforts to protect its treasured green and hawksbill turtle species after poachers targeted sea turtles laying their eggs. The hawksbill turtle is classified as critically endangered and the green turtle as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list.
Speaking to the Seychelles News Agency, Ashley Pothin, an environment conservation officer, said poachers were targeting turtles on their way to laying eggs at nesting grounds, especially isolated areas on the islands at night. “This means that we going to step up monitoring and patrols after dark,” he said.
Turtles are already protected by law from the time they are eggs up to when they are fully grown and there has been a decrease in poaching but heavy sentences and hefty fines haven’t deterred some criminals. Turtles are targeted for their meat, a traditional delicacy on the islands. The popular marine tourist destination has even developed conservation tourism, where tourists volunteer to protect the turtles.
The archipelago is home to the world’s largest hawksbill and green sea turtles. During the breeding season each turtle can lay up to 200 eggs. After 8 weeks incubation in the sand the hatchlings swim out to sea. Because of natural predators on land and in the sea, such as fish and crabs, only a few hatchlings reach adulthood.