By Orville Williams
The Environmental Awareness Group (EAG) is set to embark on a major new project, geared toward greater protection for sea turtles and their habitat.
Climate change and development-related issues continue to impact the sea turtle population both in Antigua and Barbuda and abroad, but the EAG has been doing its part to help the majestic creatures survive and also thrive, from a local standpoint.
A monitoring programme has already been in place for several years, but EAG Director, Arica Hill, says there needs to be a more multidimensional approach to caring for the turtles.
“We really want to get into managing their habitat and ensuring that every aspect of their life is good, not just nesting.
“When we think about previous programmes that we’ve had and have been very successful, like the Offshore Islands Conservation Programme, it started with looking at the Antiguan Racer and recognising that it’s great to take care of the snake, but it’s [also] really important to make sure that it has lizards to eat and that there are birds in that area.
“All of these things kind of connect and what we want to do with our programme is demonstrate that connectivity.”
The EAG has long extended its awareness to the many turtle species that nest in Antigua, including the Green Sea Turtle and the Leatherback Sea Turtle, and also the Loggerhead Sea Turtle that sometimes visits.
This particular project, however, will be focused on the turtles that live in Antigua, including the Hawksbill Sea Turtle.
“At EAG, we don’t discriminate, we love them all. But we’re actually more interested this time around, in the ones that live and forage around Antigua. A lot of the work that we’ve done before has looked at the ones who come back to nest, but we’ve not had [many] conversations about the ones that live in Antigua.
“[Those ones] who probably speak dialect and have an Antiguan passport, we want to have some conversations with them as well. We want to learn a bit more about how they interact with the environment, what are some of the pressures and threats that they’re [facing], and how we can mitigate those pressures,” Hill explained.
Along with these projects, the turtles are in need of even more protection and assistance. For this reason, the EAG Director is urging members of the public to do their part to help the endangered creatures to flourish.
“Leave their nests alone. When you see a turtle nesting, and this is the time when you’re [likely] to see that, don’t touch the turtle and don’t decide to ride the turtle.
“You can observe it quietly [and] from a distance, [but] don’t shine bright lights on them, allow them to live naturally. If you do see turtles hatching and they’re going in the wrong direction – they’re not heading toward the sea, they’re heading toward the road – do us a great favour and turn them back around and send them toward the sea.”
The new sea turtle project will be funded by a $200,000 grant from the Team Antigua Atlantic Rowers that completed their arduous 3,000-mile row in 2018.