Programa Tatô is a conservation project for sea turtles on the island of São Tomé, Africa. They take the term “community-based conservation program” to the next level. Besides the extensive, creative and culturally appropriate outreach activities conducted, they also support the creation of alternative sources of livelihood to the turtle trade. The community is at the core of their team, and with a team of 90% nationals, they are making big waves in São Tomé.
•Monitoring and protection of sea turtle nesting beaches by former turtle hunters
•Monitoring of feeding areas
•More km2 of nesting areas protected and monitored
•More capacity building in conservation work for local community
Goal: €26.500,00Donate now
Sea the Work
Yearly budget: € 296.291,00
Awareness & Outreach
Programa Tatô has been the main driver of sea turtle conservation and community empowerment in São Tomé Island on the west coast of Africa. To tackle the complex socio-economic challenges and the threats persisting in the island, Programa Tatô has demonstrated the importance of working with an integrative approach on a wide range of fields such as: research, monitoring and protection of critical nesting and foraging grounds; advocacy and law enforcement; capacity building and economic diversification; education, communication and multi-stakeholder public awareness.
Programa Tatô has been growing within the islands’ community since 1998. Home to 5 of the 7 still existing sea turtles, all of which are either vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered; São Tome is one of the most important breeding areas in the world for some of the species that choose these islands to nest. Unfortunately, it is also a place with a history of sea turtle consumption, which despite its prohibition in 2014, remains a prevalent food source. Programa Tatô has certainly contributed substantially to the 90% estimated decrease of turtle eggs and turtle meat consumption. Furthermore, the successful release of turtles accidentally caught in fishermen nets has increased by 70% and protective measures in place have increased successful hatching of baby turtles by an estimated 90%.
Besides the substantial contribution made to the scientific community with its continual publications and long-term data series; one of the key attributes of Programa Tatô is its emphasis in empowering the local community to undertake the program’s activities. With a workforce of 77 people, 94 % of which are nationals, Programa Tatô is: providing economic diversity to the community, fostering ocean respect, and greatly increasing the durability, sustainability and impact of the program.
Their current goal is to reinforce their efforts in monitoring, continue the creation of conservation leaders and dissemination of results to the scientific community and policy makers.
Areas of work
Programa Tatô is helping the community work with their natural heritage in a sustainable way by providing economic diversification to those who were dependent on the turtle trade – from turtle hunters to people involved in the sale of the products. They are facilitating good practice ecotourism movement and preparing the community to engage with it by training park rangers on how to interact with the tourists and the sea turtles appropriately. Using ecotourism as a source of revenue will also help work towards the project’s financial independence.
The establishment of baseline information and long-term data collection is crucial to not only measure a project’s impact but to track changes in species health status. Monitoring activities involve but are not limited to: collecting data on arrival time, location, reproductive success and size of females on the beach. In order to better implement strategies to protect a species, especially those which are endangered, we must go beyond monitoring its status and learn more about its behavior. The program is using satellite tagging to understand sea turtle movement ecology and behavior of nesting and foraging populations.
Those who were dependent on the turtle trade need the development of alternative livelihoods if they are to embrace this cultural shift. Women who participated in the turtle trade are being taught how to generate income in more sustainable ways such as the production of handicraft and other products to supply the local market.
The monitoring and protection of beaches prioritizes the employment of former poachers as a form of socioeconomic conversion of existing skills. The project also ensures their views and traditional knowledge are integrated to project activities. Due to poaching and domestic animals digging up turtle nests, when possible, nests are relocated and protected in nesting facilities by the beach monitors. By prioritizing inclusion of local agents and students in conservation training, Programa Tatô is helping nationals lead the conservation efforts of the country independently.
By promoting environmental awareness in schools and in human-turtle conflict areas, Programa Tatô facilitates the shift in the perception of value of ocean animals and above all strengthens proximity and trust between local communities and members of the team. Awareness raising, education and communication activities are studied in detail. Imagination and creativity are used as they produce multiple street theaters and radio shows, compose music and host cooking contests. The list goes on. Programa Tatô has become very present in the heart of the communities.
Programa Tatô had a big part to play in the legal protection status of turtles in 2014. Currently, the project leaders are involved in the establishment of the first marine protected area of São Tomé e Principe. Furthermore, the local authorities have been involved in multiple awareness events hosted by Programa Tatô, having provided training to over 70 agents, helping agents understand the importance of the work they do and to keep them emotionally involved in the mission at hand.