After more than 50 years of protection, green turtles are showing signs of recovery at Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles. A new study from the University of Exeter reveals that green turtle populations have been steadily growing throughout the islands.
The Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles is home to some one of the world’s largest populations of green turtles. However, before the turtles were granted protection through a hunting ban in 1968, they were nearly wiped out.
Researchers from the Seychelles Islands Foundation have been tracking this special turtle population by estimating how many clutches of eggs are laid. According to the latest analysis of the data, this figure has increased from 2,000 or 3,000 per year in the late 1960s to more than 15,000 per year by 2019.
“Green turtles have suffered massive historical population declines due to intensive harvesting of nesting females,” said study lead author Adam Pritchard.
“Aldabra Atoll was the first green turtle nesting site to be protected in the Western Indian Ocean, with a ban on turtle capture in 1968, followed by continued long-term monitoring by Seychelles Islands Foundation researchers.”
Professor Brendan Godley, who helped supervise the research, said that it has been an honor to support the analysis of the decades of work by the Seychelles team.
“The ongoing population increase of Aldabra’s green turtles is testament to long-term protection, and offers some clear evidence of the fact that we can be optimistic about marine conservation, well enacted,” said Professor Godley.
Overall, the results show that green turtle clutches have increased at Aldabra by 2.6 percent each year. The greatest increase in turtles has been found at Settlement Beach on Picard, which is where the most intense harvesting once took place.
“This study demonstrates the importance of long-term monitoring, which is often seen as less glamorous and valuable than targeted research,” noted study co-author Cheryl Sanchez, who is currently doing a PhD on Aldabra’s turtles. “It has taken decades of tireless commitment to collect the data to confirm this increase, and the foresight to protect the nesting population before it was too late.
“Aldabra’s green turtles should continue to be an incredible conservation success story that we can follow for decades to come.”
The study is published in the journal Endangered Species Research.
Image Credit: Richard Baxter