PRINCIPE - July 2002
Rebuilding of three colonial-era public bath facilities and protection of the nesting grounds of marine birds and sea turtles
The beautiful archipelago of Sao Tome & Principe straddles the equator and is located in the Gulf of Guinea about 180 miles off the coast of the West African country of Gabon. The island of Principe, the smaller of the two main islands, has an area of about 84 square miles and a population of about 6,000 people, whose main economic activities are small-scale agriculture and fishing. The beaches of Principe are important nesting grounds for five species of sea turtles, now threatened because local people, unaware of their importance, are harvesting the eggs. The islets of Pedras Tinhosas just off the coast of Principe are nesting grounds for a variety of sea birds, which are also threatened. In exchange for Seacology's assistance in rebuilding three public bathing facilities, the local organization Association to Protect the Environment (ASPROMA) has obtained an agreement from the local communities to end the practice of collecting sea turtle eggs, and to have their fisherfolk stay off the islets of Pedras Tinhosas. ASPROMA will be assisted in the bird and turtle protection component of the project by SPEA, the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds, which has in-depth knowledge of Principe's terrestrial and marine habitats.
UPDATE July 2004 - Work to rebuild the colonial-era bath facilities is underway, with three facilities scheduled to be completed this year. A leaflet on marine bird and turtle protection has been produced and distributed.
UPDATE July 2005 - The rebuilding of the public facilities was completed in December 2004. ASPROMA, the local organization running the project, scheduled a launching ceremony in early 2005 where leaflets about the project were distributed. ASPROMA continues to conduct public awareness activities, including a radio program that invites representatives from the rural communities involved in the project to talk to the Principe population about the need to protect the natural resources of the island.
UPDATE January 2006 - Project leader, Manuela Nunes, visited the sites in December 2005. She found some equipment was missing from the facilities and bad weather had caused damage to one site. Ms. Nunes worked with the communities to replace materials during her visit and learned that another funding source has offered to repair storm damage. During her visit a short turtle and bird protection awareness campaign was conducted in the form of radio announcements and distribution of leaflets to villagers. She also noted that the schools in the area are conducting turtle conservation campaigns. However, turtle poaching remains a major problem.