The double increase in the number of turtle nests in Cape Verde is surprising to the scientific community and environmentalists, who have yet to find an answer to the phenomenon.
Biologist Berta Renom of the National Marine Turtle Protection Network (Taola) said that only on the island of Sal, where nests are already counted, 14,950 were registered, double from 7,700 in 2017.
“It’s spectacular,” said Berta Renom, recalling that by 2017 the number of nests had been double the previous year.
Although only available data on Sal Island, the Taola network knows that this increase is “a phenomenon in all the islands” of Cape Verde, said the biologist.
The increase is welcome, but scientists and environmentalists still do not have an explanation for the phenomenon, although they point to several possibilities.
“There are natural fluctuations of the species that are due in part to the fact that not all females come out of the sea to place the nests, choosing to shelter in the sea. This may be a year in which they chose to do this course “said Berta Renom.
Another hypothesis points to the effects of the protection of this species, a process that started about 20 years ago, initially on the island of Boavista, then extending to all the Cape Verde Islands.
In 1987, the Government approved the first laws to protect sea turtles, legislation that prohibited the capture of turtles during their spawning season.
“The turtles take 20 years to reach adulthood. It could be a return to Cape Verde, especially the first born here and managed to reach the sea,” he said.
In spite of several hypotheses, the scientific and environmental community does not compromise with a single explanation, choosing to welcome the increase in nests and calling for the maintenance of protection measures for a species that remains vulnerable.
On the island of Sal, for example, light pollution threatens almost a third of the nests. This is because the turtle hatchlings go towards the light soon after hatching, given that the horizon of the sea is brighter due to the reflection of the stars and the moon in the sea.
As the light of cities is brighter than in nature, turtles are often disoriented and go towards cities rather than the sea, subjecting themselves to all the dangers along the way.
Berta Renom also warns of the danger of stray dogs for these animals, as they often eat turtle nests.
In the face of “unnatural” threats, environmentalists choose to put some nests in nurseries or relocate them to other places on the beach.
This year, 1,900 nests were placed in nurseries and 2,900 were placed on the beach.
As a result, 94,000 turtles were released into the sea, which would hardly survive the threats.
One in four sea turtles that spawn on the beaches of Cape Verde is caught for consumption, according to official data indicating that last year both the catch and the number of nests increased.
At the end of this “turtle season“, Berta Renom also welcomed the criminalization of the consumption of meat and turtle eggs, which reinforced the measures provided for in the special legal regime for the protection of sea turtles.
However, it is only when offenders are caught in the act that the law can achieve its objectives.
But “before the law, even that did not happen,” he said.
According to the accounts of Taola, in 2017 43,500 nests of turtles were registered throughout the archipelago, 12,000 more than the previous year.
The spawning of turtles begins in June and runs through late October or early November. The hatching takes place between August and the end of December.
According to Taola, the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) is the only one that regularly nests in Cape Verde, although there are five species of sea turtles in the waters of the archipelago, all of which are protected.
For centuries, turtles were caught for food, for ornamental purposes and handicrafts, but also because of the myths that their blood cured diseases.