Sea turtle conservation in Gabon

All seven species of sea turtles are on the IUCN Red List of threatened Animals. Four of these nest on the beaches of Gabon: leatherback ( Dermochelys coriacea), green turtle (Chelonia mydas), olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata). Gabon has recently been discovered as one of the most important nesting areas for leatherbacks in the world, and is considered the largest nesting site in Africa.

The Gamba Complex of Protected Areas, is situated in the south-western part of Gabon along the Atlantic coast and extends over a total area of 12,000 km2. It contains a mosaic of habitats including seashores, mangroves, coastal forest, swamp forest, equatorial rainforest, semi-montane forest, savannas, rivers, lagoons and swamps. The conservation value of the Complex has been recognized since 1962 through the protection of eight different areas. Two of the 13 recently created National Parks in Gabon are now located in the Complex: Loango National Park (1,500 km2) in the Northwest, and Moukalaba-Doudou National Park (5,000 km2) in the eastern part. About 7,500 people reside in Gamba town, which is located in the heart of the Complex, and their presence is mostly linked to the oil industry. Oil and gas exploration and production concessions are located in the reserves between the two parks and off shore. A large oil export terminal, operated by Shell Gabon, is located on the coast near Gamba town.

Camp site near Gamba in 2003

With the support of the World Wildlife Fund, Biotopic participated in setting up a research and conservation project in the Gamba Complex of Protected Areas. During the 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 nesting seasons, Biotopic was active in training four locally recruited researchers on different aspects on sea turtle conservation. The pilot project was conducted in close collaboration with WWF-NL and WWF-Gabon, the local NGO IBONGA-ACPE (Association for Understanding and Protection of the Environment), PROTOMAC (Protection

de Tortues Marine d’Afrique Central) and KUDU (Protection of Marine Turtles in Western Africa). Near Gamba town, in the vicinity of the oil terminal, a 6 kilometer long beach, was closely monitored. Studies were executed on nesting ecology, numbers of nesting turtles, predation and human threats. In addittion, 72 turtles, most of which leatherbacks were tagged. The pilot study focused on ecological research on marine turtles, mapping of stakeholders and awareness raising, whith the final goal to investigate the possibilities for starting a long term conservation program on marine turtles in the Gamba Complex.

After the pilot study, Biotopic presented a project proposal describing a conservation program (for the first three years) for marine turtles in the Gamba Complex of Protected Areas in Gabon. The sea turtle conservation program in the Gamba complex is currently being continued by Ibonga, WWF and Protomac.



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This project is funded by the Dutch WWF, the Dutch Treub Society for the advancement of research in the tropics and the Dutch ASN Bank.