Loggerhead Sea Turtle Watching in Boa Vista

Cape Verde has one of the world’s largest Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta) nesting population.

Loggerheads are considered an endangered species and are protected by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. To help the survival of these creatures, Cape Verde runs extensive turtle conservation hatchery projects. In Boa Vista, guided tours to observe the deposition of eggs by the turtles are held nightly from June until mid-October with August being the peak spawning season.

Loggerhead turtles are oceanic turtles that can be found around the world: Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, as well as the Mediterranean Sea. The average Loggerhead measures around 90 cm long when fully grown, although larger specimens of up to 280 cm have been discovered. The adult turtle weighs approximately 135 kg, with the largest specimens weighing in at more than 450 kg. They spend most of their life in saltwater and estuarine habitats, with females briefly coming ashore to lay eggs on or near the beach they were hatched. They reach sexual maturity within 17–33 years and have a lifespan of 47–67 years. They have a low reproductive rate; females lay an average of four egg clutches and then become quiescent, producing no eggs for two to three years.

During the nesting season females return to lay eggs at intervals of 12–17 days. They exit the water, climb the beach, and scrape away the surface sand to form a body pit. With their hind limbs, they excavate an egg chamber in which the eggs are deposited. The females then cover the egg chamber and body pit with sand, and finally return to the sea. This process takes one to two hours. Turtles are very peculiar when choosing a suitable place for nesting. It can be the feel of the sand, an unpleasant sound or annoying light that can make them retreat. Once the deposition begins, they get into a trance and consequently they are not bothered by anything. The eggs look and fill like battered table tennis balls, they are of similar size as well. Visitors can observe the turtles during the process up close even touch them. The biologist take register about each turtle they came across. They also collect the eggs and transfer them to a specific hatchery where they take care of them. They move the eggs because they are extremely vulnerable in the nest.

The prolonged time required for Loggerhead turtles to reach sexual maturity and the high mortality rates of eggs and young turtles from natural phenomena as well as human activities make the problems of population reduction complex. The conservation of the turtles not only contributes to the survival of the spices, but also helps in educating the inhabitants of the archipelago about the importance of helping these sea creatures. In the past, turtles were hunted and sold for their bones and meat. Unfortunately, a dish from turtle eggs is still consumed illegally in some areas of the archipelago. Schoolchildren are regularly drawn into the conservation work, especially, in the time of hatching. It is unlikely that anyone, seeing the cute little turtles wobbling in the sand while trying to reach the sea, will ever again hunt them or eat their eggs.

Know Before You Go
You have to be prepared to move quickly in the pitch black on the beach.


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