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Endangered Species Research

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ESR 45:195-207 (2021)  -  DOI:

Risk assessment of wildlife-watching tourism in an important endangered loggerhead turtle rookery

Adolfo Marco1,2,*, Samir Martins2, Alejandro Martín-Rábano2, Sonia Lopes3, Leo J. Clarke4, Elena Abella1

1Estación Biológica de Doñana, CSIC, C/ Américo Vespucio s/n, Sevilla 41092, Spain
2BIOS.CV, C/ Sta Isabel s/n, Sal Rei, 5211 Boa Vista, Cabo Verde
3Direcção Geral do Ambiente, Cha d’ Areia s/n, Praia, 332A Santiago Island, Cabo Verde
4School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University, Menai Bridge LL59 5AB, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Wildlife-watching tourism is a non-exploitative activity that can contribute to sustainable economic development of coastal communities. However, it is important to assess the potential impact and implement best practices to mitigate any negative effects of such tourism. We studied this issue on Boa Vista (Cabo Verde), which supports around 60% of nesting activity of one of the most endangered loggerhead turtle rookeries globally. Between 2013 and 2016, authorized turtle watching involved 4942 tourists, generating a mean annual direct income of >USD 289000 and the direct creation of >250 jobs. On João Barrosa beach, which supports around 20% of nests and 48% of turtle-watching activity on the island, we tested the influence of turtle watching on nesting behavior, reproduction and nest-site fidelity. Nesting females observed by tourists spent significantly less time on nest-camouflaging behavior, although all other phases of nesting were unaffected. There were no statistically significant differences between the re-nesting frequency of females watched (n = 187) and non-watched (n = 972) by tourists. We found no evidence that the current turtle-watching intensity has an effect on turtle reproduction. Turtle poaching remains a severe threat on beaches with no turtle watching, although it has strongly decreased on beaches with tourist visits. We suggest tour guides follow best practice guidelines to minimize disturbance, specifically retreating from the immediate vicinity of a female during nest camouflaging to mitigate the observed impact.

KEY WORDS: Sea turtles · Wildlife tourism · Turtle watching · Cabo Verde · West Africa · Risk assessment

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Cite this article as: Marco A, Martins S, Martín-Rábano A, Lopes S, Clarke LJ, Abella E (2021) Risk assessment of wildlife-watching tourism in an important endangered loggerhead turtle rookery. Endang Species Res 45:195-207.

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