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Date: 08/02/2008

Sea turtles could become the emblem used to promote Cape Verde as a tourist destination, according to a proposal that came out of a workshop for the presentation of the National Plan for the Conservation of Sea Turtles in Cape Verde, which will be concluded today on the island of Sal.

The preservation of sea turtles could also come to be included in school curricula in the country. The National Plan for the Conservation of Sea Turtles in Cape Verde will be put into effect before the end of this year and will be publicized on all of the island over the course of the coming months, according to the plan’s coordinator, Sónia Araújo, of the Department of the Environment.

Hundreds of sea turtles come to Cape Verde’s beaches every year to lay their eggs. Many end up the victims of locals, who kill them for their meat or collect their eggs, which are considered a delicacy. In addition, on the island of Sal, tourists and locals alike may often be seen driving 4x4 vehicles along the beaches, destroying large numbers of eggs laid in the sand as well.

In Cape Verde five of the seven existing species of sea turtles can be found, and the country is the second most important spot for egg laying in the North Atlantic. The species most commonly found in Cape Verde, the loggerhead turtle (caretta caretta), is not yet on the endangered species list, although another species commonly found here, the green sea turtle, which is often hunted by fishermen, is.

The plan presented yesterday by the government calls for “guaranteeing the durable conservation of sea turtles,” providing means for the implementation of conservation-related activities and the enforcement of existing laws.

The killing of sea turtles between the months of June and February was prohibited by law in 1997, and since 2002 the prohibition has been year-round. The animals continue, however, to be killed on practically all of Cape Verde’s islands, and are often commercialized openly.

The plan aims to “reduce illegal practices of the capture, commercialization and consumption of sea turtles and their derivatives,” particularly the consumption of the penis of male turtles, considered to be an aphrodisiac in some parts of Cape Verde.

The government also plans to involve the population in conservation activities, as sea turtles are “currently threatened with extinction due to the strong impacts caused mainly by man,” according to the plan.

In addition to prohibiting the killing of sea turtles, Cape Verde ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1995, and since 2005 has been a part of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Cape Verde is also a part of the Regional Marine Conservation Program in West Africa and the Memorandum of Understanding concerning Conservation Measures for Marine Turtles of the Atlantic Coast of Africa .

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