Thursday, February 26, 2009

Newspaper article – Seychelles Nation (23/01/09)

The following article “Turtle poaching on the increase” was recently featured in the local newspaper:

There has been an increase in turtle poaching since the beginning of the hawksbills’ breeding season last year, the Department of Environment’s conservation unit said yesterday.

The months of September to March are the time when hawksbill turtles come to lay their eggs on beaches, and conservationists say this is the time poachers wait for the vulnerable creatures. Although hawksbills are the main species caught, the department says green turtles are also being poached as they can be found all year round.

Gilberte Gendron, a marine ranger in the Department of Environment, says there have been more than 20 cases recorded of hawksbills being poached, especially in the south of Mahe. Although turtle meat is considered a delicacy locally, for the last 20 years there have been intensive campaigns to stop people from eating it as turtles are now protected in Seychelles.

Miss Gendron says there is an added danger that poachers are selling people hawksbill meat and passing it off as green turtle meat. Hawksbill meat can have serious and even deadly effects when eaten because of the food the turtle itself eats in the sea.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature says although the green turtle is considered to be endangered, the Hawksbill is at greater risk as it is on the critically endangered list. Miss Gendron says the department is taking steps to stop turtle poachers, but it is difficult as they continually change their tactics. Poachers are now using spear fishing to catch the turtles while they are still at sea, as well as killing them under cover of darkness.

Anonyme Island is one of the hiding places poachers are now using when discarding the shells of turtles they catch. Since the island – which has a few chalets – currently has no tourists, it provides poachers with the perfect secluded place to carry out their illegal activities. Two weeks ago nine shells were found on the far side of the island in a sheltered area.

Miss Gendron says this followed a call on December 30 from a young man who carries out a regular rat-baiting exercise on the island. “He described a gruesome scene of turtle eggs covered in blood floating around an area of Anonyme Island, which we went to investigate,” she said.

The manager of Anonyme, Vivian Vidot, says it looks as though it has taken the poachers some years to collect the number of empty turtle shells found there.
“In addition to the nine found together, there were also two more that looked like they had been there for a while,” he said.

Gilberte Gendron examines the remains found on Anonyme island

When Seychelles Nation spoke to the environment officers yesterday, they had just received a call reporting two more fresh turtle shells found in the south of Mahe. Miss Gendron says they are now closely monitoring the poachers as they know who they are. “We know who is poaching, all we need now is concrete evidence to take those people to court and make them pay for their crimes,” she said.

To help catch the culprits red-handed with the evidence needed to convict them, the Department of Environment is urging members of the public to call its green line – 722111 – to report any incidents.

“We have caught and successfully prosecuted poachers in the past using information we got on the green line,” said Lena Desaubin, a director in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Transport.

“Calling the line is strictly confidential and no records are kept of the people who give us a call,” she added. The department says it has recently taken a poacher to court after seizing his boat. And Miss Gendron stressed: “We do urge people to call us on the green line so we can catch the poachers and successfully prosecute them.”

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