The Kitesurfing Community on Sal Island, Cabo Verde: An Ally for Sea Turtle Conservation

Check out this article about Loggerheads in Africa that one of our Board members, Roger, shared! Learn more about Project Biodiversity at www.projectbiodiversity.org or by following @projectbiodiversity on Instagram!

Read more from the African Sea Turtle Newsletter here. This article is from Newsletter #6. 

                                                                   

The Kitesurfing Community on Sal Island, Cabo Verde: An Ally for Sea Turtle Conservation 

Albert Taxonera 
Projeto Biodiversidade, Santa Maria, Ilha do Sal, Cabo Verde (email: albert.taxo@gmail.com) 

Sal Island is located in the Cabo Verdean archipelago, approximately 500 km off the west coast of Africa. Cabo Verde supports the second largest population of loggerhead sea turtles, Caretta caretta, in the Atlantic (Marco et al. 2011) with the beaches of Sal hosting annually between 1,200 to 2,500 nests (ADTMA 2008 – 2014 and Projeto Biodiversidade 2015 nesting season reports) although this year (2016) we have already exceeded 4,100 nests! 

Every year, the tourism industry brings thousands of visitors to Sal Island. This industry is threatening the main nesting habitats of loggerheads, but it is also creating new opportunities for the local communities. One such community benefiting from tourism is the surfing community. Cabo Verde is well known for its strong winds and waves, and kitesurfers from all over Europe come to Sal during the dry season, (December to April). However, the real surfing community is formed by young Cabo Verdeans who have found a way of life that is connected to the sea. 

Kitesurfing in Sal has several meanings: it means job opportunities for the local youth who will become kitesurfing instructors; it means pride, with young surfers taking the colours of their flag all over the world; it means morabeza and no stress; and finally, it means love for the oceans and its creatures. 

Although the windy season does not coincide with the loggerhead nesting season, the surfing community can play an important role in sea turtle conservation. A perfect example is when the former World Kitesurf Champion (2008) Mitu Monteiro, a Cabo Verdean, rescued a loggerhead turtle with his board while kitesurfing. He found it entangled in plastic and kitesurfed it back to the beach (Fig.1), where it was helped by other kitesurfers (Fig. 2). This is no surprise because the surfing community loves the sea and is an advocate for the protection of sea turtles and the oceans. 


Figure 1. (Photo: Gabriele Rumbolo) 


Figure 2. (Photo:Gabriele Rumbolo) 

This year on Sal, Projeto Biodiversidade’s sea turtle field camp is located at the Kite School (Fig. 3-4) owned by Mitu Monteiro and his friend and associate Djo Silva, another famous kite surfer. 

Figure 3. (Photo credit: Projeto Biodiversidade)

Figure 4. (Photo credit: Projeto Biodiversidade)

By allowing the sea turtle project to use the Kite School premises, we have been able to improve the field camp conditions for the field staff, thereby increasing their motivation and the efficiency of beach patrols. We have also increased the visibility of our conservation work within the local community, especially those connected to tourism and kitesurfing, by making the project more transparent and inclusive. Finally, this collaboration has allowed the Kite School to stay open during the summer months (when it is normally closed), which has provided an opportunity to keep the employees and generate income from other tourism-related activities. Through this community of Cabo Verdean surfers, we hope to reach more broadly into the hearts and minds of the local communities and finally tip the local balance in favour of sea turtle conservation. 

Despite the fast-paced development of the island, the increased availability of job opportunities and the sea turtle conservation efforts over the past 9 years, poaching on adult female turtles is still not decreasing. Pressure from the local communities on the population of Sal, including government entities, can actually help conservation by changing public opinion. 

Literature Cited 

Marco, A.E., E. Abella, C. Monzón-Argüello, C. Martins, S. Araujo, and L. López Jurado. 2011. The international importance of the archipelago of Cape Verde for marine turtles, in particular the loggerhead turtle Caretta caretta. Zoologia Caboverdiana 2: 1-11.

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