PRETORIA - Scientists have identified Gabon in West Africa as the home of the world’s largest leatherback turtle population.
The research involved country-wide land and aerial surveys that estimated a population of between 15,000 and 42,000 female turtles using the nesting beaches.
The study highlights the importance of conservation work to manage key sites and protected areas in Gabon.
Leatherbacks are of profound conservation concern around the world after populations in the Indo-Pacific crashed by more than 90 percent in the 1980s and 1990s.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists leatherback turtles as critically endangered globally, but detailed population assessments in much of the Atlantic, especially Africa, are lacking.
The research was led by the University of Exeter working in collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) which spearheads the Gabon Sea Turtle Partnership, a network of organisations concerned with the protection of marine turtles in Gabon, said an Exter release.
During three nesting seasons between 2002 and 2007, the team’s members carried out the most comprehensive survey of marine turtles ever conducted in Gabon.
These findings were published in the May issue of Biological Conservation.