Madagascar’s Sea Turtles Under Threat From Organized Poaching
The illegal hunting of Madagascar’s sea turtles is reaching a crisis level as a result of organized trafficking networks, according to WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society).
Conservationists from WCS assert that the recent spike in the exploitation of marine turtles is being driven by increasing demand for marine turtle meat and oil both on local markets and in Southeast Asia and the participation of local villagers in the illegal hunting for monetary gain. After ongoing crises with illegal exploitation of precious timber, land tortoises, and now sea turtles, Madagascar is developing an unfortunate reputation as an illegal trafficking hotspot.
“The beaches of Madagascar are important nesting sites for four species of marine turtle – Green sea turtles, Hawksbill sea turtles, Loggerhead sea turtles and Olive Ridley sea turtles, so the increase in poaching is of great concern,” said Alison Clausen, WCS’s Regional Director for Madagascar and the Western Indian Ocean. Marine turtle hunting has always existed at low levels throughout Madagascar yet over the last year hunting levels appear to have increased dramatically. WCS has been particularly active raising awareness of the importance of marine turtles for marine ecosystems and as a tourist attraction. In spite of recent successes in the protection of Madagascar’s sea turtles, indications of a recurrence of rampant exploitation have emerged in the past year.
“The Government of Madagascar has made many strides in the past several years to protect its natural resources and has pledged to triple the coverage of MPAs in the country,” added Clausen. We are committed to working with the Government and communities to protect Madagascar’s natural resources but it’s a huge challenge when a single sea turtle can be sold the same price as a fisherman’s monthly income.”
The northwest of Madagascar in particular is a global marine biodiversity hotspot, exhibiting some of the highest diversity of coral reef ecosystems in the world. WCS has been working in the northwest of Madagascar for over 10 years to create marine protected areas to protect marine turtles and other important marine ecosystems and species including coral reefs, seagrasses, dugongs and sharks and rays. In April 2015 the MPAs of Ankivonjy and Ankarea were formally established by the Government of Madagascar and are managed by WCS in partnership with local communities.
WCS’s marine conservation work in Madagascar is supported by and Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.
WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in nearly 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: newsroom.wcs.org