This month, the Olive Ridley Project (ORP) launched #GreenTurtlesGaadhoo - an educational campaign to raise awareness of the most significant Green Sea turtle nesting site in the country, Six Senses Laamu’s neighboring island L. Gaadhoo.
Gaadhoo has been identified as a nesting hotspot since the 1980s, recording between 5-10 turtles coming up to nest at that time. Despite declines in turtle nesting activity all over the country, Gaadhoo continues to record the highest nesting activity in the entire Maldives.
Thanks to the close proximity to the island, the support of the resort and a research permit from the EPA, the ORP biologists at Six Senses Laamu have been able to do sporadic nesting surveys on Gaadhoo since 2018. This has deterred poaching activity, due to the continued presence of researchers on the island. Out of the 14 nesting hotspots identified by the government of Maldives in 2006, L. Gaadhoo is the only one with the most consistent data - which is a helpful resource in the team’s call to protect it.
In May, ORP, with the support of the rest of MUI and other organizations, also appealed to the President of the Maldives to designate the nesting beach of Gaadhoo as a Category 6: Species/Habitat Protected Area. As the island of Gaadhoo begins to see new developments, the team hopes to minimize potential impacts on nesting activity on the island.
Gaadhoo is also unique for its biodiversity, terrestrial ecology, seagrass meadows, coral reef habitats, and closed mangroves - with the campaign, ORP hopes to gain more support for protection this island that has been uninhabited since 2015.
After a six-month break, turtle nesting surveys were resumed on Gaadhoo this month. Earlier in May, a drone survey of the nesting beach showed approximately seven fresh tracks with nesting season in full swing, ORP wanted to get more accurate data - so armed with a GPS, survey sheets, and a camera, Isha, ORP’s Turtle Biologist at Six Senses Laamu, headed to Gaadhoo for the first survey of the year.
The nesting beach had eroded away with the large swells due to the late May storm, erasing any tracks of turtles nesting. Isha focused instead on fresh body pits, recording four suspected nests - out of which two are suspected of being poached. Without a resident population, Gaadhoo’s beach is unprotected from poachers coming into the island. Increases in poaching can have a huge negative effect on nesting activity, as green turtles return to the same area where they hatched to nest.
ORP hopes to continue surveying the nesting beach once a week, to get more accurate data of nesting activity and poaching of Green Sea turtle eggs.
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