Ultralight aircraft surveys reveal marine turtle population increases along the west coast of Reunion Island

Other literature type English OPEN
Jean, Claire ; Ciccione, Stephane ; Ballorain, Katia ; Georges, Jean-yves ; Bourjea, Jerome (2010)
  • Publisher: Cambridge Univ Press
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.1017/S003060530999072X
  • Subject: Abundance | aerial survey | conservation | Indian Ocean | marine turtles | Reunion Island

Reunion Island in the south-west Indian Ocean once had significant nesting populations of marine turtles but they declined rapidly after human colonization. In 1996, after regular sightings of turtles offshore, an aerial survey programme was initiated to monitor the occurrence of marine turtles and their distribution along the west coast of the island Between 1998 and 2008, along a 30-km coastline transect between Saint Leu and Saint Paul, a total of 1,845 marine turtle sightings were recorded during 146 flights with an ultralight aircraft The mean number of turtle sightings per survey increased significantly between 1998 and 2008, and a variety of sizes were recorded throughout the year Marine turtles were found over coral reef zones and on the outer reef slopes. Spatial distribution may be linked to the topography and substrate of the bottom, which determine the availability of food and shelter The marine protected area located off Saint Paul seems to have benefited marine turtles as they frequent this area more than other regions on the west coast. These results are encouraging for local organizations working for the conservation of marine turtles on Reunion Island
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