Operation turtle rescue

Brazilian project to protect turtles

source: Steve Connor
Independent Review January 25 2002 p8

Project Tamar is a Brazilian project to help endangered sea turtles, and its full name is the National Maritime Turtle Conservation Programme of Brazil. Tamar has funding from a non-governmental organization called Foundation for Tamar, and the Brazilian Environment Institute. There are over 20 Tamar centres on Brazil’s Atlantic coast, where local people help promote eco-friendly tourism. Local people had previously eaten turtles and taken their eggs. Laws banning this could not work unless locals could be persuaded that turtles brought them benefits. The project has lasted 21 years, and some turtle populations have stabilised, with a few even rising in that time. There has been a focus on educating children through a kindergarten, set up by Tamar. The children can earn money from helping tourists as guides. Their parents also see the value of turtles as a way of attracting tourists, whose spending helps local people to earn a living.

Fishermen have also helped with turtle conservation, by locating nests that need protection, some of which may be moved to better locations. Eggs need to be moved fast from poor locations for a good success rate in terms of hatchings, so the fishermen’s help is very important.

Some species, such as hawksbill and loggerhead turtles, have a majority of females among hatchlings. It is unclear why this is so. Proportions of females seem to increase when the water is warmer, and females may also be more likely to die before adulthood than males.

The Marine Turtle Research Group is based in Swansea, and is under the University of Wales. Brendan Godley is a researcher there who has worked with Brazilian researchers on turtle navigation. There is much about turtle migration that has yet to be understood, but it is clear that turtle conservation is an international issue, since they migrate across national boundaries.