There really is never a dull moment working with turtles on Sal and yesterday was no exception. The day started with the worst possible news – a turtle had been killed on Kite Beach sometime between 3am and 6am last night. Two of the Rangers found her remains and let me know right away.
Plans for the day were about to be disrupted …………………….. even worse is that we have a strong suspicion that the guys that tried to kill a turtle two nights ago are the culprits. On that occasion the turtle was found upside down behind the dunes while the killers went to get their knives and buckets, Rangers were able to return her safely to the sea. While I went up to Turtle House to get the GPS position of the dead turtle and read the report, two Rangers have gone to the police station in the hopes that they will search the house of the suspects. Thankfully all the other beaches were quiet, a couple of nests, including one crazy turtle who went mountain climbing up the big dune on Ponta Preta. Her nest is now safely relocated in the main hatchery.
Neal returns and says that a detective is going round to the suspect’s house right away, everyone knows who this guy is and everyone knows why he does it – money for drugs. He was one of the ones that went to court last year and received a suspended sentence – if he is caught again he goes to jail. Fingers crossed. Now it’s my job to go and take photos of the remains as evidence. What a truly depressing, disgusting sight. The turtle had been lifted almost straight out of the water and carried behind the dunes, then flipped on her back and dragged with a rope around her neck about 500m back towards the road. She would have first had her flippers removed and then her plastron (the hard part underneath) and then her meat would have been cut away bit by bit. During this time she would still be alive and we can only imagine the terrible pain and suffering she must have felt. I found her flipper and realised that she is a turtle that had nested during our first year of work, 2008 and had been named ‘Linda’ (‘Beautiful) by a young girl in Santa Maria. What a terrible waste. Found some articles of clothing right next to her which may help to find the people who committed this crime.
In the meantime the Landrover battery seems to be dead and whatever the problem is needs to be fixed in time for patrols tonight. Both quads are in the garage as well, it seems we only ever have one out of three vehicles on the road at a time!
The tourism team arrive back from the main hatchery where they give a presentation every day at 10am, book people on turtle walks and arrange adoptions of hatchlings. Tourists are the mainstay of the project, funding 70% of our work here in Sal and on other islands. Get the news that there is an extra group who want to go on a walk tomorrow so it will be me filling in.
Spend the rest of the day preparing for the workshop we will do with the military tomorrow. Soldiers help us to patrol the beach and make a real difference, but most of them have never seen a turtle before and we need to explain how not to disturb them when they are nesting. Hope they will start work soon!
A quick meeting with the team before they head out on patrols, tonight we will start camping on the beach all night in an effort to maintain a stronger presence. Two new Capeverdian Rangers start working tonight. For me, it’s off to bed, but not for long. The Landrover was fixed but now it is broken again up at Serra Negra. One Ranger and four volunteers stranded! But at least they had witnessed a turtle nesting while they were there! By the time that’s sorted out it’s past 3am when we finally get to bed. At the end of the night we have five more nests to add to the 44 already laid and tomorrow we’ll be doing it all over again!
Anybody is welcome to join us on patrols, just email: email@example.com for more information.