THE PROTECTION OF THE MARINE TORTOISES
In Congo, the nesting of the tortoises primarily begins between
October and April, and peaks during December, November and January.
There are eight species of Marine Tortoises in the world. However,
only five of them reach the Congolese borders. The "Luths" and "Olivâtres"
tortoises are two species which lay most regularly on the beaches
of Congo. The "Green" tortoises are rarer in the area. Those occasionally
seen are primarily the young that are accidentally caught in fishing
nets, nevertheless, some specimens have been observed during their
nesting. As for the "Imbriquées" and "Caouannes" tortoises, some
carapaces were found in various places but nothing yet really proves
that Congo could be a site of nesting for them.
The marine tortoises are dwindling in numbers. Many threats
weigh on them throughout all stages of their life: during the incubation
of eggs (men, crabs, insects, mongooses, etc), during hatching (birds,
monitors, dogs, etc), then at sea and at during adulthood (sharks,
pollution, fishing nets, etc). Even if these species could benefit
from international laws which protect them and prohibit their trade,
rare are the countries which enforce them. More often are they driven
out by the encroachment of man and/or their eggs are consumed by
other wildlife. In 1980 the population of luths tortoises was estimated
at 309,000 specimens in the whole world. Ten years later, it was
not more than 100,000. One can thus assume that if the laws of protection
are not applied, the species will quickly disappear.
Animals Still Little Known
Many mysteries remain of the elusive marine tortoises. From their
life at sea to their difficult adolescence. Even if one could follow
their migrations, the reasons for which they traverse such long
distances still remain unknown. The lifestyle of the majority of
the species during their adolescence is a mystery. Indeed, there
exists little data on their life (diet, behavior, etc) since they
leave the beach before they reach the adult state.
An Ecological Interest
In nature all is interrelated. Each animal and each plant have its
role. The smallest change can disturb a whole environment. For example,
the luths tortoises feed almost exclusively on jellyfishes of which
they follow the migrations. If tortoises came to disappear, the
number of jellyfishes would rise consequently, which directly affects
our ecosystem. For example, areas which have been seriously affected
by jellyfish blooms include the northern Gulf of Mexico. In that
case, moon jellies have formed a kind of gelatinous net that stretches
from end to end across the gulf.
An Economic Interest
Marine tortoises are among the many natural treasures of Congo.
These species will be a valuable asset for the country's developing
tourist sector as it rises to the level of tourism in other popular
For more information and to support Renatura Congo, the Association
for the Protection of the Marine Tortoises in the Congo, click