Turning poachers into custodians

Crowdfunding to help turtle conservation

Meander Chronicle Reporter

The nightly ritual of turtles emerging on the shores of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park to lay their eggs first caught the attention of scientists in the 1960s. While this had been an extraordinary experience to witness over the years, it became apparent that the critically endangered Leatherback and threatened Loggerhead turtle populations were beginning to decline.

Over the years these threatened animals were being killed for their meat, and their eggs were taken illegally by local communities living along the coast. To advance the much-needed protection of the nesting turtles, the Ezemvelo Turtle Monitoring Programme was initiated with the aim to turn the poachers into custodians.

Sense of ownership

The programme has seen significant job creation within the coastal communities and created a sense of ownership for the wildlife and the environment along the coastline. To date, due to the initiation of the programme, the Loggerhead turtles have experienced a significant increase in numbers, while the nesting Leatherback turtle population is stabilising.

The eggs of a critically endangered Leatherback Turtle at iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KZN. Pictures: Roger de la Harpe

Only about 80 nesting Leatherback and 935 Loggerhead turtles visit our shores each year and the continuation of this programme is necessary as it is their only chance at survival.

Turtles play an important role in maintaining the health of the world’s oceans. Their roles range from maintaining productive coral reef systems, to transporting essential nutrients from the oceans to beaches and coastal dunes. As the turtle population declines, so does the ability to fulfil vital functions in ocean ecosystems.

Custodians of nature

“This programme is not only crucial for the survival of the Loggerhead and Leatherback Turtle populations, but also very important for the local communities who are truly invested in it. A programme such as this does not only create jobs, it also creates custodians of nature and wildlife, ambassadors who truly believe in the conservation and protection of unique, biodiverse areas such as the iSimangaliso Wetland Park,” said Lauren van Nijkerk of the WildTrust.

SA’s coastal legacy lags behind

To keep the programme running, WildOceans, a programme of WildTrust, has launched a crowdfunding campaign in partnership with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and DIFFERENT.ORG. The goal is to raise R300 000 for the programme by the end of December 2018. To donate , spread the word and make a difference, click here:

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Loggerhead Turtle hatchlings head towards the ocean for the first time.

“We’re excited to be partnering with WildTrust for this hugely impactful programme that seeks to conserve and protect vulnerable turtle populations while involving the local community in this process in a sustainable, meaningful way,” said Simone Gregor, Head of DIFFERENT.ORG.

The organisation is a reputable online crowdfunding philanthropy platform funding projects in South Africa. There will be no monthly subscriptions, no commission on donations and no credit card fees. Every cent will thus go to the Turtle Monitoring and Safeguarding Programme, to maximise impact.

On the web
Facebook: Wildoceanssa
Twitter: @wildoceanssa
Instagram: @wildoceanssa