Marine Turtles conservation
This project is very important and has to continue to see the day. Comoros and especially Moheli are considered as one of the most important breeding ground for green turtles in the Indian Ocean and a sanctuary for the very rare hawksbill turtles. Moidjio CRCAD is trying to get involved in the conservation of this fantastic creatures. Without saying that they were contemporary to the Dinosaurs, making them one of the oldest genera on earth, without saying that their nesting behaviour sustain a land and reef ecosystem, without saying that their feeding behaviour sustain sea-grass meadows dynamics, without saying they are an example of bravery for us lazy humans (1000's of miles migration), they are just beautiful and amazingly cute. What would be a dive without a turtle, what would Nemo have done without it friend the turtle. Marine turtles are represented and respected by many cultures and religions, it is a symbol for many and an icon for other. Marine turtle are worth saving.
Our Organisation is seeking urgent assistance in order to protect the remaining nesting Green and Hawksbill turtles within the region of Nioumachoua and its inhabited islets on Moheli Island (Comoros). A declining marine park over the years, a lack of motivation, poverty, discouragement of the population for conservation, reduced patrols, lack of funds for conservation and local governmental corruption as led to an increase in poaching activity on marine turtles for meat consumption. Our 2016 campaign revealed that conservation efforts had stopped from local government authorities, all visited nesting beach had traces of poaching with appalling number of dead turtles with up to 30 turtles per beach. The situation is critical and we would like to end poaching by showing an active presence in this region. In 2019 a new management is bringing new hopes for this conservation effort that needs all helps possible. The situation is now really critical, new poaching roads are opened and now Poaching from Anjouan, Grande Comores and Moheli itself happens. The islets of Nioumachoua are no more visited by the turtles and this is 2020. Strong of our successful experience in the area and the management of 3 sites in the neighbourhood island in Grande Comore, we have the experience and knowledge to keep marine turtles nesting activity sustainable. The nesting population of Nioumachoua was estimated at 3000 females in 2010 by our students on the ground. We think that this number has easily fallen to less than a half. We are offering to enrol local conservationists helped by international volunteers to engage in conservation by patrolling nesting beach, educating children in school, apply simple recording methods for research purpose. A dynamic organisation that involve local young people, giving them hope and employment, will be stronger than any conservation plan. It doesn’t involve much investments and can be sustained by volunteer programs and local people involvement.
The Comoros and especially Moheli, are very important nesting sites for green and hawksbill turtles and are considered as one of the largest site for green turtles on inhabited islands within the Indian Ocean. Turtles are protected by national and international laws and Moheli Marine Park is supposed to be a sanctuary for them. Moheli is estimated to shelter around 12 000 females’ green turtles (2010) with half of it concentrated around the Village of Itsamia, situated in the east of the island. There, conservation and study have drawn much local and international conservation investments. Leaving the rest of the island with no or very poor focus on marine turtles. Indeed Nioumachoua that is in the middle of the Marine reserve, have 5 inhabited islets and there, studies and conservation are poor, poaching rate very high due to it difficult and remote access, just poachers can afford to do the trip and harvest marine turtles. Nioumachoua is the second village of Moheli by its size and poverty is high.
Meat is a rare delicatessen as there is no or very little roaming place for cattle, goat, ship and chicken. Most of raised animals are sold to the other islands. Fishing is still rudimentary and daily takes aren’t enough to feed the population. A green turtle is around 30 kilos of eatable meat that is sold for 3 dollars a kilos. 90 dollars in Comoros is several months of salary for one family. We have evaluated from records of 2007 to 2010 that at least 3000 turtles were nesting on 12 beach of the region. This includes 7 beaches on 3 remote islets and 5 beaches on the main Island close to Nioumachoua. In 2009, Moidjo CRCAD bought the beach of Moidjio for conservation purpose. Natural vegetation coverage was encouraged to grow and hawksbill turtles have been recorded nesting since. Our latest investigation in 2014 and 2015 reports high numbers of poaching on female nesting green turtles. More than 50 emptied turtles shell on the coast of Nioumachoua, another 50 on the islets. Poachers are acting fast with high level of cruelty, turtles is flipped upside down, cut both flippers with a machete and empty the meat while the turtles is still alive. We have also caught and reported to authorities boats full of alive turtles up to 10 in a boat at a time. These practises are operated by commandos that come from other islands and leave no or hard to record poaching evidence.
People living within the marine park haven’t seen yet the benefit of Tourism. Big promises were made to them in term of tourism development when the Park was created in 2001. Large amount of money was put together to finance projects that didn't work as expected or with moderate success that didn’t last. The Marine Park has fallen apart and without activities and survey people just helped themselves with free and in large quantity food supply! Recent re-organisation of the Marine Park with new goals and objectives is a real hope for the remaining sea-turtles of the Comoros. Poaching still exists and continues.
Our organisation needs help to organise surveys and educational programs to limit and eventually eradicate poaching of Marine Turtles in Comoros. Our association is well integrated within the population and our work is wanted by the villagers. They like the contact with foreigners coming all this way to protect their natural heritage, the fact that we are a mix association with local and international expertise. We are also bringing incomes and stimulate the local businesses. We are promoting the island richness with our programs, website, facebook page and have attracted the attention of big Media Companies. The BBC found the Comoros to film a part of their series “Africa, the Cap” through our website and hired our services to organise the filming in Itsamia. Modjio is composed of simple people that have passion and commitments to the cause. Helping Moidjio even a little bit will have the biggest impact. All our crew is volunteer and pay to come, stay and organise surveys and educational programs. What is needed for the sustainable future of the turtles in Comoros is a long time commitment of an organisation that will celebrate the turtle and make it part of the culture and villages of Comoros.
Moidjio team with nesting Green turtles, Wanefou, Comoros 2012.
Green Turtle, Wanefou, Comoros 2010
Hatchling study, Moidjio, Comoros 2011
Green Turtle, Wanefou, Comoros 2010
Green Turtles skulls, Comoros 2010
Green Turtle decapitated, Wanefou, Comoros 2016
Green turtles shell, Ndourde, Comoros 2015
Nests investigation, Comoros 2010
Poaching act, 10 Greens, Itsamia, Comoros 2017
Decapitated Green Turtle, Wanefou, Comoros 2013
Turtle ID form
seagrass ID and distribution
BBC Movie, Comoros 2010
Hatchling green, Wanefou, Comoros 2016
Nest investigation, Wanefou, Comoros 2016
Turtle tracks, Wanefou, Comoros 2016