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ESR 47:205-215 (2022)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01174

Green turtle population recovery at Aldabra Atoll continues after 50 yr of protection

Adam M. Pritchard1,*, Cheryl L. Sanchez2,3, Nancy Bunbury2,1, April J. Burt2,4, Jock C. Currie2,5,6, Naomi Doak2, Frauke Fleischer-Dogley2, Kristian Metcalfe1, Jeanne A. Mortimer2,7, Heather Richards2, Janske van de Crommenacker2, Brendan J. Godley1

1Centre for Ecology and Conservation, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Cornwall TR10 9FE, UK
2Seychelles Islands Foundation, La Ciotat Building, Mont Fleuri, Victoria, PO Box 853, Seychelles
3Department of Biology, University of Pisa, Via A. Volta 6, 56126 Pisa, Italy
4Department of Plant Sciences, Oxford University, South Parks Road, OX1 3RB, UK
5South African National Biodiversity Institute, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Claremont, Cape Town, Western Cape 7735, South Africa
6Institute for Coastal and Marine Research, Nelson Mandela University, Gqeberha, 6031, South Africa
7Department of Biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Green turtles Chelonia mydas have been subject to high levels of anthropogenic exploitation, with harvesting at their nesting sites especially pronounced throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, leading to worldwide declines. Due to their delayed sexual maturity, long-term protection and monitoring is crucial to allow and accurately demonstrate population recovery. Subsequent to their exploitation, Aldabra Atoll (Republic of Seychelles) has offered the longest continuous protection for nesting green turtles anywhere in the Western Indian Ocean, beginning in 1968. Here, we document the continuing recovery of that population by estimating clutch production within 12 mo nesting seasons over 50 yr of monitoring. An estimated mean of 15297 clutches were laid annually between December 2014 and November 2019. This represents an increase of 173% since Aldabra’s intensive monitoring programme was initiated in 1980, and 410-�665% since 1968. Clutch number increases were recorded at all but 1 of 6 monitored beach groups around the atoll but were most pronounced at Settlement Beach, where exploitation of nesting females was historically most intense. Seasonality data since 2000 showed a year-round nesting season, with elevated activity in April-June peaking on average in May, and a potential shift to later in the year over time. This study highlights the considerable contribution of Aldabra Atoll to regional green turtle numbers and the benefit of long-term protection and monitoring at what can be considered a global reference site for this species.


KEY WORDS: Chelonia mydas · Marine turtle · Population assessment · Seasonality · Track counts · Western Indian Ocean


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Cite this article as: Pritchard AM, Sanchez CL, Bunbury N, Burt AJ and others (2022) Green turtle population recovery at Aldabra Atoll continues after 50 yr of protection. Endang Species Res 47:205-215. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01174

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