‘The leatherback turtle has survived for more than a hundred million years, but is now facing extinction. Recent estimates of numbers show that this species is declining precipitously throughout its range.’ (WWF).
I have been working for the last 10 years, trying to protect female Leatherback turtles, and female Olive Ridley turtles, that come up onto the beaches on the African coast to lay their eggs. I am trying to establish a safe haven along 20 km of beach in the Volta Region in front of Meet Me There African Home Lodge, an Eco Tourist lodge that I have established in a poor community on the coast of Ghana.
Traditionally the people of this community kill and eat any of these turtles they can catch. This is totally illegal in Ghana, and offenders face a 7 year prison sentence for killing turtles, however this protection is not enforced by the wildlife service or the police, and in practice these female turtles have no protection.
I have tried a number of different approaches to protect the turtles, and the hatching babies. Recently, after working with the local chiefs, schools and opinion leaders, we have been a lot more successful, and last year protected over 100 laying turtles
( of these 9 Leatherbacks were killed, as were 7 Olive Ridley)
, as well as a considerable number of eggs and baby turtles. Each of these females lays about 100 eggs at a time, and usually 50 to 70 of the eggs hatch. This means that this project is responsible for up to 7,000 baby turtles entering the sea every season.
I have funded the turtle programme myself in the past, but now, as it becomes more successful, I find that I need help to continue this work. I am looking to link up with interested individuals and organisations to find funding to keep the project going and build on the work that is already in place. We are also looking for volunteers who hopefully know a lot more about this conservation work than I do, and who can give us some well informed help.