Green turtles, which are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as endangered have been monitored locally by the Seychelles islands Foundation (SIF) since the early 1980s.
Some four decades later, an almost 500% increase in the number coming to shore to lay eggs has been observed, according to the Foundation. However, in and around the inner islands, green turtle nesting populations are on the verge of extinction.
Higher numbers of nesting occur in the Amirantes Group, notably on the southern islands such as Aldabra, Assumption, Cosmoledo, Astove and Farquhar.
According to the Seychelles News Agency, Luke A'Bear, a scientist on Aldabra stated that prior to establishing the Aldabra research station in 1971 turtles were harvested for their meat and eggs.
He says, "One of the main reasons Aldabra was settled in the first place in the late 1800s was to exploit the abundant turtle population, as well as the giant land tortoises, fish and mangrove wood. One of the first leaseholders of the atoll, Mr James Spurs, intended to export 12,000 turtles a year."
Mr. A'Bear noted that by the time the research station was established it was a rarity to spot a green turtle nesting on Settlement Beach (the largest beach on the atoll). The situation gradually started to change with the SIF sea turtle protection programme.
The scientist continues, "Remember that until recently none of the ocean surrounding Aldabra was protected, so the turtle numbers have increased without the assistance of a large Marine Protected Area. Just by stopping harvesting on land, their numbers have skyrocketed. In March this year, we had on average nearly 50 turtles a night coming ashore to nest […]."
This data was compiled thanks to SIF rangers having patrolled the beach in front of the research centre and counting the number of tracks left by nesting green turtles during the night.
According to the SIF the numbers started to exponentially increase from 2000 onwards.
SIF notes, "Green turtles usually take between 25 to 30 years to reach sexual maturity, so it could be that the increase in numbers from the year 2000 is those first-generation protected hatchlings returning to nests. With 50 years of protection, Aldabra is an example of the power of conservation and the resiliency of turtles and nature to recover if left undisturbed."