The primary goal of our work on the Cape Verdean island is to achieve the best protection of sea turtles from poaching and other man-made dangers. In addition to patrolling the nesting beaches, we are particularly keen to involve the local population in our activities and develop programmes based on their needs that will enable them to live a decent life independent of the sale of poached turtle meat.

In order to test the acceptance of our conservation efforts, we conducted an opinion survey in the villages on the island in 2016/17 to find out what the population’s attitude towards the protection of endangered animals is. A new survey was carried out in 2022. The overall evaluation allows us to record possible developments in the attitudes of the population over a longer period of time.

Three different opinions within the communities

Essentially, three groups of surveyed communities have emerged: those that are aware of the relevance of the work of local environmental protection organisations (NGOs) are contrasted with those that reject the work of NGOs. In the middle, communities have emerged that fundamentally accept the need to protect sea turtles. However, their attitude remains ambivalent, as they are actually very reluctant to refrain from consuming the meat.

Improved acceptance – rejection and lack of understanding still remain

Compared to the 2016/17 survey, most respondents in 2022 had a better understanding of the nature and species conservation organisations. However, it also emerged that the work of NGOs was confused with that of tourism companies. In the same breath, they accused the NGOs of making profits from protecting the turtles instead of sharing fairly with the population. The results in the municipality of Cabeça dos Tarafes, where we worked with other NGOs from 2018 to 2022 to implement community-based projects such as the establishment of a seamstresses’ cooperative, were interesting. The projects had a positive effect on the acceptance of the NGOs, as attitudes towards the protection of sea turtles improved significantly in 2022.

Background Covid: tourism collapsed completely

It is important to consider the results of 2022 in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and its far-reaching consequences for Boa Vista. At that time, the tourism sector came to a complete standstill, unemployment rose and many workers returned to their islands of origin. New workers who arrived on the islands after the pandemic may have had few points of contact with conservation issues.

Straßenansicht eines Dorfs auf Boa Vista, Kapverden

Environmental education and transparent use of funds are essential

The results of the survey show the need to raise general awareness of the work of local NGOs by creating more transparency about the origin and use of funds. Here it can be helpful to specifically address the differences to profit-orientated companies such as those in ecotourism. It can also be concluded that continuous environmental education programmes are essential in order to raise the population’s awareness for nature and species conservation and to bring about long-term changes in behaviour.

Do you like the idea that we continue our environmental education projects in the future so that the protection of sea turtles can be achieved sustainably? You are welcome to fund our work with your personal donation. No matter how much you want to give us – every amount counts.

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