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Life Sciences research aims to protect endangered turtles

The University of Roehampton is key collaborator in six figure EU grant to study the sea turtles of Anguilla and help protect them from extinction.

Posted: 9 May 2016

image for news story Life Sciences research aims to protect endangered turtles

A team of researchers from the University of Roehampton’s Department of Life Sciences has helped to secure over £300,000 (€394,976) of funding to study and conserve the three sea turtle species at threat of extinction if a hunting ban is lifted in Anguilla in 2020.

The research will provide much-needed scientific information on the Leatherback, Hawksbill and Green sea turtle populations which will help the Anguillian government to assess their conservation strategies. The results are highly likely to influence the review of the hunting ban in four years; a ban which a vocal proportion of the local Anguillian community have already called to be removed.

Sea turtles were once found in the millions in the region, however today this number has reduced to thousands. This dramatic decline has mostly been to over-hunting and so this research from Roehampton looks to support the Anguillian government, encouraging them to keep a hunting ban in place, 2020 and beyond.

While the ban on hunting sea turtles has been in place since 1995, they are still hunted illegally and eggs are stolen from nests. In Anguilla it is widely believed that turtle meat and eggs are good for your health and it is thought to have similar effects as Viagra. Ensuring the ban remains will go a long way in protecting the species which would otherwise likely be eradicated in just a few years.

Dr Lewis Halsey (Reader in Environmental Physiology) and Dr Louise Soanes (Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow in Marine Ecology) will provide overall support for the project, including collection and analysis of data and the writing of peer-reviewed publications. Working with the Anguilla National Trust (ANT) and Anguilla’s Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Roehampton’s Dr Jonathan Skinner (Reader in Social Anthropology), will coordinate the training of local researchers in undertaking and analysing surveys, interviews and focus groups.

The project combines scientific research with community action. It will focus on monitoring nesting beaches to increase understanding about breeding sea turtle populations in Anguilla, increasing understanding of foraging populations through satellite tracking and flipper tagging, educating local communities on the importance of protecting turtle populations, developing ecotourism practices with local communities as an alternative to hunting, and providing Anguilla’s Government with scientific evidence to inform decisions on whether to extend the sea turtle hunting ban in 2020.

The Department of Life Sciences at Roehampton offers a range of outstanding degrees including two new integrated masters courses that combine Undergraduate and Masters-level study in Zoology and Biological Sciences.

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