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Every Turtle Counts!

The Sea Life Trust head to East Timor to help re-build turtle population

NEW ZEALAND, Friday 18th May 2018 - This week, a group of staff from Sea Life Trust ANZ are heading on an exciting turtle conservation project to East Timor to help re-build turtle populations. In partnership with Conservation International, the group of ten will be working with local communities to address the recurring issue of turtle egg poaching and nest disturbance within the region.

Timor Leste is a critically important region to focus global turtle conservation efforts due to the presence of all species of marine turtle, key significant nesting sites and the key threats impacting on their declines, including illegal trade, bycatch in fishing, poaching of eggs and animals, and plastic pollution. In addition, the impacts of climate change are starting to emerge with changes in nesting beaches, sex ratios and overcooking of eggs resulting in increased mortality for hatchlings.

The Sea Life Trust is working with the support of former Prime Minister of Timor Leste and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Jose Ramos Horta - who has identified a lack of understanding of the impact and illegality of egg poaching and will work with the government to reduce the sale and consumption of turtle eggs as a priority.

Claudette Rechtorik, Head of Sea Life Trust ANZ, said, “Without a focus on reducing identified human induced threats, global turtle populations are in a dire position in the long-term. East Timor is a progressive new country and the aim of the project is to help support and strengthen the capacity of local communities to protect, manage and monitor important nesting sites.

“Working with Conservation International, government agencies and local communities, we also aim to strengthen the government’s capacity to improve enforcement and compliance activities. We hope this will significantly reduce the threats identified and improve our baseline knowledge to quantify the scale of the illegal egg trade in Timor Leste.

The Sea Life Trust will be in East Timor from Friday 18th May to Friday 25th May.

The Role of Sea Life Trust in this project
• Develop a strategy for improved turtle conservation outcomes in Timor Leste focused on improving government enforcement capacity and reducing the demand for illegal trade in sea turtle eggs at markets in Dili, the capital.
• Identify a baseline of the number of eggs and turtles being sold in local markets in Dili.
• Recruit Nobel Laureate Jose Ramos Horta, a known high profile supporter of turtle conservation, as Patron or Ambassador of the project to support ease of strategy socialisation and successful project outcomes in the medium to long term. He will play a key role in raising awareness with local communities across the country.
• Commence implementation of the strategy via an awareness campaign with communities on the importance of protecting turtles in TL and in particular that it is illegal to harvest eggs under TL law.
• Work together with the village of Com to establish an effective local management program whereby, the community ensures that at least 70% of eggs remain in nests to ensure sustainable hatchling success - this would still allow for traditional consumption up to 30% of eggs (not for sale at markets) as required.

ends

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