Anyone who walks along the beaches of Gabon cannot fail to notice large numbers of washed up logs littering the sand. Beached timber presents a serious threat to nesting turtles, and Gabon is home to the world’s largest leatherback rookery. A new study led by the University of Exeter and co-authored by members of the Partenariat des Tortues Marines du Gabon (ANPN, WCS, ASF, WWF, CNDIO and IBONGA) has just examined the problem in detail.
The researchers looked at aerial and ground-based survey data from 2003-2011, and compared the spatial distribution and abundance of beached logs and leatherback turtle nests across years. Between 15,000- 17,000 logs were counted along Gabon’s coastline in the different surveys. Pongara NP consistently had the highest density of logs, whereas Mayumba had the lowest. In some areas both logs and turtle densities were high, and two sites (Kingere in Pongara NP and Sette Cama) were identified as posing the highest risk to nesting turtles through beached logs. The authors highlight the seriousness of the problem and the challenges faced with finding an appropriate solution.
Pikesley SK, Agamboue PD, Bonguno EA, Boussamba Fo, Cardiec F, Michael Fay J, Formia A, Godley BJ, Laurance WF, Mabert BDK, Mills C, Mounguengui GAM, Moussounda C, Ngouessono S, Parnell RJ, Sounguet G-P, Verhage B, White L, Witt MJ, 2013. Here today, here tomorrow: Beached timber in Gabon, a persistent threat to nesting sea turtles. Biological Conservation 162:127-132.