I am a graduate student working with Dan Costa using tagging to better protect olive ridley sea turtles in Gabon and Congo on Africa’s west coast. Let me tell you a little about olive ridleys and this part of the world.
Olive ridleys are one of the smaller of the 7 species of sea turtles. They are found around the world, but have been fairly poorly studied compared to other sea turtles. There numbers are rather large in the Pacific, but in the Atlantic, very little is known about them, including simple things like: Where do they nest? How many of them are there? Where do they forage and migrate?
A lot of the reason so little is know about them is because they tend to nest in such remote locations, and in the Atlantic, most of their nesting beaches are found along the coasts of Brazil, Suriname and French Guiana in the Western Atlantic, and along the coast of Africa in the Eastern Atlantic - its easy to go unnoticed in these places! Plus, olive ridleys (and their cousins, the Kemp's ridleys) have one of the most fascinating and unique behaviors of all animals - at least in my humble opinion! On some parts of the world, they come ashore to nest in mass - and by in mass, I mean tens of THOUSANDS of turtles sometimes nesting on a stretch of beach of approximately 2-3 km in length over the period of 2-4 days - in some places, there are so many nests that nests previously laid are dug up by new nesters. No one really understands why they do this - or how the cues work for this to happen. This unique behavior is known as an arribada.
In Gabon and Congo, olive ridleys are solitary nesters (as in they nest much like other turtles do, one at a time) but it is thought to be just a matter of time before an arribada is discovered somewhere along the coast of Africa. I don't know if I'll be there to discover it, but I sure hope I get to see one one day! In the mean time, I've arrive to Libreville, Gabon - the capital city - and am awaiting the arrival of some equipment I shipped before I head south to my field site. I am working with a number of phenomenal organizations including the Marine Turtle Research Group, seaturtle.org, Parcs National Gabon, Partenarait Tortues Gabon and Wildlife Conservation Society, all of whom are fantastic people working in Africa for the conservation of animals and habitats. While in Libreville, I am staying at the WCS Case de Passage, a house for WCS and affiliated researchers who are working in Gabon and working out of the Libreville office.
I think thats enough info for today - tomorrow I'll be sure to tell you more about Gabon, Congo and what we are aiming to accomplish with this research.
To follow the turtles online, go to The Gabon Turtle Project Page on seaturtle.org
Click here to learn more about Mayumba National Park and donate to the park
This work is generously supported by:
National Science Foundation
Myers Oceanographic Trust
Friends of Long Marine Lab
Project Collaborators and Partners:
Parcs National Gabon
Partenariat Tortues Marines Gabon