Onshore Preservation of Hawksbill Turtle Eggs through Community Participation
Project location:Shibderaz, Qeshm(Lat./Long. : 26.631419;55.568848)
Shibderaz Village is in the centrally-located southern coastline of Qeshm Island which is currently the only stretch used ?in the entire island by Hawksbill Turtles for nesting and laying eggs. The coastline, therefore, represents an important ?and strategic Hawksbill hotspot. In 2002, the Bureau of Environment, Qeshm Free Zone Area (QFA), received reports ?of Hawksbill Turtles laying eggs near Shieb-deraz Village, Qeshm Island. Immediately the Bureau of Environment of ?QFA mobilized and deployed the help of the villagers as well as the Village Council to find out that this area is a major ?site. The locals were engaged in collecting and protecting the eggs. It is reported that about 10,000 eggs were ?collected and 4001 baby turtles were saved to return to their natural habitat into the Persian Gulf.
In 2003 with the ?support of UNDP-GEF/Small Grants Programme, the project group (the locals, the village council and the technical ?experts) expanded past activities to preserve the sea turtle eggs and coastal shorelines. The SGP project aimed to ?protect the eggs of the critically endangered Hawksbill Turtles and the related coastline stretch in the Qeshm Island, ?Shiebderaz village area through the empowerment of the local community and their active participation.
Hawksbill ?Turtles are critically endangered species. Out of a spectrum of typical threats, three were identified as the most ?prominent under the particular circumstances faced by the Hawksbill. These are natural predation of turtle eggs by an ?indigenous breed of island fox, development activities on the coastline, and collection of eggs by local villagers and ?other visitors from the island (due to traditional beliefs on the medicinal properties of turtle eggs as well as due to ?poverty of the collector, who would then sell on the eggs). The nesting season usually takes place in the months of ?March-May and from the juncture when the eggs are laid, it takes 60 days for the hatching to occur. About 70% of the ?egg-laying is concentrated in a 2 Km stretch of coastline immediately adjacent to Shibderaz village.
The project ?involves reconnaissance of 15 Km coastline by the project team in order to pinpoint egg-laying turtles. The ?reconnaissance takes place at a specific interval in the evening when the tidal waters are high (i.e. between 20:00 to ??02:00 am). Once, such turtles are identified, the team then waits in the background for the turtle to complete burrowing ?and egg laying without disturbance. After the entire process, which could typically take up to 2 hours, the team moves ?in to measure the dimensions of the burrow and formation of egg pile, then collect and transfer the eggs to a secured ?location in the Shibderaz village for safe-keeping under the sand until such time that the turtles hatch. Once the eggs ?are collected the team also takes the liberty to record the necessary physical data about the turtle.
The systematic ?onshore conservation activities of project team can be summarized as:
1-reconnaissance of the coastline to find ?turtle tracks of turtles which are breeding
2-guarding the nesting grounds against disturbance
collecting the ?eggs within a 15 Km coast
3-numbering and documenting the details of the turtles, eggs, holes dug by the turtle ??(tagging of mother turtles started in March 2007)
4-moving the eggs to a secure site (each hole has an identification ?marker corresponding to the initial nest made by the mother turtle)
5-guarding the eggs till it is time to hatch,
5-?documenting the hatchling information
6-awareness raising activities for nearby communities
6-training young ?girls for conservation art (as a means of income generation and awareness raising)
7-developing a grounds for eco-?tourism,
8-lobbying for protection regulations for this coastline?
In 2004, GEF/SGP increased the funds of this project to include further activities (e.g. another season of hatching, ?further documentation and tagging of the mother turtles) with the co-funding from Australian Embassy. Booklets, brochure ?and films on the project were prepared to disseminate the good practices. Finally, in a process of participatory evaluation ?the project was evaluated successful by stakeholders and the local community in the final workshop held on the site.?
Extra budget was approved ($17,000) for:
o How to do book for local action plan for turtle conservation along the Persian Gulf coast based on SGP Qeshm Hawksbill Project
o One more season of implementation work after departure of Mr. Dareshoori for continuation and linkage with Turtle ecotourism zonation project, including contribution to garbage collection system due to increased tourism