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Turtles and The Law

Project Biodiversity - Sal Island

SOS Tartarugas was an organisation that fought to protect turtles on Sal Island, Cape Verde. The info below was written in 2008 when the organisation was active on Sal Island. The organisation that now fights for protection of turtles and the environment here on Sal is 'Project Biodiversity'. You can listen to what 'Project Biodiversity' is all about by watching this video, or by following them on Facebook. Video link: BBC - BLUE PLANET - PROJECT BIODIVERSITY

If you are coming over to Sal and you want to know more, please contact Project Biodiversity.

Dec - 08 :SOS Tartarugas (Turtles)

The season is slowing - but it's not over yet! Big Mama laid a nest with 155 eggs on 18th Oct - babies should be born around the 11 December.

Lots and lots of babies since then. Nest excavations take place every night at 6pm at the hatchery (outside Riu hotel). Usually there are more babies released. We excavate to check no babies are stuck at the bottom.

October babies born out of Nest 1 in the hatchery. We collected 71 hatchlings and released them on Algodoeiro. They were moved from the beach because of probable disorientation from lights.

There are still turtle stealers, some have been arrested. Turtles are coming out in broad daylight now. More than 3,000 eggs were in the hatchery at one time.

Jacquie Cozens heads up the organisation SOS Tartarugas on Sal which helps protects turtles and eggs. A number of ex-pats help out with cleaning the beaches prior and during the egg laying season to make it easier for turtles to have a clear access/exit route in and out of the water. Visitors to the island can also play a part in helping protect the turtles. Non-visitors can also adopt a baby turtle on line. Hotels, local businesses are also expected to play their part in protecting this endangered species.

If you go alone to the beach at night you may be be greeted by locals with a torch. They may be innocently sitting on the beach, catching crabs or looking out for turtles. The locals may be able to take you to where a turtle is laying its eggs. Remember not to keep your torches on. You will have to be very quiet, no talking on approaching the area. Keep your distance and listen to what the local is trying to tell you. Do not use cameras as the clicking sound, zoom and flash will alert the turtle. The locals may try and turn the turtle over after it has finished laying its' eggs and starts to make its way back to the sea. I understand that normally if a turtle is to be killed for meat, they turn the turtle over so that it can't escape. They also leave a marker where the eggs have been laid, they may dig these up after you have gone, as turtle eggs are eaten here.

If you have to take a torch to find your way to and from the beach, please keep in mind what has been said and do not shine torches towards the water. Some people who have gone on their own or with an unofficial guide have found the experience disturbing when confonting locals who appear to be trapping a turtle. During the egg hatching season, some tourists have been approached on the street and asked if they want to buy a baby turtle, or they have noticed someone with a bucket of water containing baby turtles. If they are being sold, the dilemma is whether you buy the turtle in order to set it free, encouraging more trade in baby turtles for money, or should you leave it!

In preference to going out on your own, it would be much better for you to Project Biodiversity or 'Explore Cape Verde'. They will organise a supervised visit for a small fee.

More information: WWF 2007:

You can find detailed information on Sal's environment at the Sal's local guide booklet at Information Cabin's or some shops.


Sal, Boavista and Maio are the islands with more than 50% of the marine biodiversity of the country, they attract turtles to their sandy beaches to lay their eggs. Cape Verde is considered to be the second largest breeding site for Loggerhead turtles (Caretta Caretta)and in the North Atlantic, Florida is the largest.

In Sal, you can find Loggerhead turtles nesting sites on all the beaches. Santa Maria used to be an important spot but because of the lights and tourism development they have in the main, stopped coming to that beach.

The main breeding site on Sal are Algodoeiro and Ponta Preta. In June 2006, 138 turtles came to the site to nest (Source: PAM,2006). The breeding time is from June to September. Other sites: Serra Negra, Calheta Funda, Costa de Fragata, Murdeira bay, Parda, Igrejinha, or every beach with sand and no disturbances.

Sea turtles are protected by law (Law Decret n* 7/2002) and all disturbance, capture, commerce (meat, carapace, other) are forbidden. We have also signed some international Conventions such as: Biodiversity, CITES and Convention on Migratory Species.

Tourist must avoid to disturb the turtles during their nesting period (do not get close, do not touch, if they are lost, help them to reach the sea, avoid lights, etc):

Contact the authorities (police, municipality, maritime delegation) if needed;

Do not use quads and jeeps in the beaches during the nesting season (June to end September). The quads destroy the nest and can compact the sand which gives the turtle a bad time when "digging". It is also forbidden by law.

The World Wildlife Federation has supplied a list of Good Environmental Practices and asks that you take the necessary precautionary measures to assist them in the prevention of turtle destruction.

Please open the attached articles and links below.


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