“I started poaching turtle eggs when I was ten years old!” declares Anthony Peabody. Since 2012, however, Anthony has been working as a beach monitor and turtle protector thanks to Sea Turtle Watch (STW) Liberia’s community oriented conservation programme. With four species including Hawksbill, Leatherback, Olive Ridley and Green turtles using these beaches, Liberia is important for marine turtle conservation.
In a country with relatively weak marine turtle conservation legislation, NGOs like STW Liberia are working directly with coastal communities to help reduce extinction pressures from egg harvesting and death through bycatch in fishing nets. “Sea turtle hunting and egg poaching have a substantial history in Bassa Point, Little Bassa and Edina coastal communities,” explains Trokon Saykpa, project coordinator with STW.
The legislative situation is gradually changing however. In 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began the process of formulating simplified regulations for the protection of Endangered Marine Species in Liberia, inviting inputs from STW among other locally based conservation organisations. Change will come, eventually. Meanwhile, community engagement through participatory conservation allows for more immediate conservation successes, asserts Trokon.
As was the case for many other community members also growing up in the region, poaching sea turtle eggs was a serious business for Anthony. “I learned how to do it from my father who took me hunting at night for sea turtles. Each night I would go and dig out 2 – 4 nests for food primarily, and then take the rest to market to sell”.
In 2012, following an initial series of meetings with STW Liberia, the community leaders of Bassa Point selected Anthony and two other individuals to work with the sea turtle project and put their local knowledge to good use. Once trained, daily duties involved walking the beach to record nesting sea turtle data, protecting identified nests until hatching and excavating the nests as required.
One of the principal objectives of this project is to protect nesting sea turtle beaches all year round and for records collected to show an increase in or stability of marine turtle populations in the region. These monitor training workshops are key to the successful implementation of this objective as they build the capacity of these local monitors and provide tools for carrying out walking beach patrols in the area as well as effectively contributing to the improvement of the conservation status of threatened sea turtle species in Liberia.
Every year, at the beginning of a nesting season during October to November, local monitors gather together from their various communities for a training workshop on how-to identify, track and collect data on nesting sea turtles found on the beaches in their area. Developing visually oriented training aides helps speed up training in a situation characterized by mixed levels of literacy.
For Anthony “every time I attend this training workshop, I learned a new method or routine which enabled me to complete the sea turtle data records properly. For example these large posters showing ways to identify the sea turtle species are very helpful and important to my work.”
This is just one of many anti-poaching projects supported by IUCN’s SOS initiative. With your continued support we can continue to support frontline conservation tackling issues like illegal wildlife trade. Please donate now and help SOS save more species.