A crash course in changing the world.
At the Ghana coast at least three species of marine turtles can be found. All of these are highly endangered as their populations are declining due to hunting, capturing or destruction of their nests. The major threat to the turtle population in Ghana is predation on eggs by domestic animals especially pigs and dogs. Human exploitation also contributes significantly to the decline in their population. Special fishing nets are used for trapping the turtles by fishermen and their nests are being digged up by local people. The turtle meat and eggs are eaten or traded for cash income.
To change this situation the marine turtle conservation project was initiated in 1995. It started with a national workshop in the capital of Accra. The workshop brought together chiefs, representatives of communities, scientists and conservationists from the universities and relevant government departments. Some of the important recommendations from this workshop, among others were that:
- animal rearers such as the pig owners should be assisted to construct structures to prevent their animals from running away
- community task forces should be formed to be responsible for education and turtle conservation activities (Report killing and egg collection, identify important nesting sites and protect the nests ...)
- fishermen whose nets are destroyed by turtles should be compensated as an incentive to release them
A series of training programmes were organised by the Society for the task force members to enable them to perform the above functions effectively.
The most important achievement of the turtle conservation project has been a dramatic change in people's attitude and behaviour towards marine turtles. Task force members have reported that fishermen often invite them to come and witness the release of turtles accidentally caught back into the sea.
In the long term it is planned that the communities will be involved in the promotion of community based eco-tourism in the turtle concentration zone. Revenue from this enterprise, will be used for the development of the communities by providing clinics, schools and improving domestic water supply.