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Africa's sea turtles need passports for protection
Date:5/12/2011

gged in Mayumba National Park, a 900-square-kilometer marine protected area on the southern coast of Gabon. Mayumba National Park and Conkouati-Douli National Park just across the border in the Republic of Congo were created to protect both olive ridley and leatherback sea turtles from fishing nets, but dozens of dead olive ridley sea turtles have continued to wash up on the shores of the park every year. These deaths have perplexed park managers and resulted in mounting concern about the health of this threatened species.

"What we found, however, made sense. Turtles were regularly moving outside of the park boundaries where we believe they were encountering fishing nets and drowning, and later washing ashore where we would see them," said Angela Formia of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Ocean Giants Program.

The study revealed another critical finding: the tagged turtles spent more than half of their time in the Republic of Congo waters, highlighting the need for international cooperation to protect this species. The Wildlife Conservation Society is now working in conjunction with the national park agencies of both countries to join and expand Mayumba and Conkouati-Douli National Parks, creating what is the first international marine park in this region of the world.

"The proposal to combine and extend the protected areas will be incredibly effective," said coauthor Brendan Godley, professor at University of Exeter Cornwall and coordinator of the Marine Turtle Research Group. "We estimate that 97 percent of the most critical habitat for this population of olive ridley sea turtles would fall within the expanded park boundaries."

"Our results clearly provide a solid foundation for the implementation and extension of the transboundary marine protected area," said coauthor Michael Coyne, director of the non-profit SEATURTLE.ORG, which hosts a website where the sea turtles can be followed online by the public.

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Contact: John Delaney
jdelaney@wcs.org
718-220-3275
Wildlife Conservation Society
Source:Eurekalert  

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