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08 September

Bad for your health but great for conservation

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In a recently published study by researchers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and McGill University, eating sea turtle eggs could be greatly detrimental to human health owing to the high presence of heavy metals in the eggs. Great news for sea turtles and conservationists protecting these species, but not so for the people of Panama.
Like Cousin Island Special Reserve which is managed by Nature Seychelles, many nature reserves protected under law provide a safe haven for many marine and terrestrial wildlife from human activities such as fishing, poaching, development, pollution and so forth.

In the Seychelles, sea turtles and their eggs are protected under the Wild Animals and Birds Protection Act. It is illegal to poach and kill sea turtles and if found guilty one might face a penalty of a fine of up to half a million rupees or a two year jail sentence.

 Female will return to the same beach they hatched on decades later to nest

Collecting sea turtle eggs is mostly prohibited in Panama and in the tropical eastern Pacific region but still persists and therefore continues to threaten the survival of these species. Specifically, the olive ridley turtle which is classified as vulnerable and the green sea turtle which is listed as endangered.

Using eggs collected from green sea turtles and olive ridley turtles, the researchers found a high level of heavy metals including mercury, arsenic, manganese, iron, copper and zinc. Cadmium, also found present in these turtle eggs, can be toxic for young children, and in the long run can cause kidney and skeletal problems in general.

Whereas in the Pacific region turtle eggs are used as a source of protein, in other regions turtle meat is eaten for a more unsettling reason. Local residents of Lamu, a small island off the coast of Kenya want the government to lift the ban on turtle meat which they claim increases men’s sexual energy, without which divorce levels are on the increase.

  A Hawksbill turtle laying eggs on Cousin Island's beach by Martin Harvey

This Eastern Lamu community also says that turtle fat has medicinal value and can treat Tuberculosis and Asthma, claims which have been refuted by local medical practitioners. 

Traditionally Seychellois hunted green turtles for the meat. Turtle egg collection was also to supplement their diet. The Hawksbill turtle on the other hand was caught for its carapace and used in the artisanal craft industry. This led to a drastic decline in numbers of these species. However, due to intense conservation work over the years - with a key component of education - these endangered turtles have been given a chance at survival.

Cousin Island is one of the most important nesting sites for the critically endangered hawksbill turtles in the Western Indian Ocean region. Nature Seychelles staff and volunteers therefore take great care not to disturb them when conducting turtle monitoring during nesting season. In addition regular patrols are also carried out to ensure there is no poaching of turtles or any other wildlife on the island or in the 400 meters of water surrounding the island.

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Read 24585 times Last modified on Tuesday, 13 September 2016 10:42
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