ITMNC-copyMarine turtles are threatened with extinction worldwide. They are hunted for food, their nests are raided for the eggs, and their nesting sites are being spoiled. They also smother on the plastic bags which pollute all the oceans of the world.

In view of this situation the Aquarium des Lagons is committed to a major effort to preserve and protect them.

Since 2007, the Aquarium has received financial support from the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR) of the Univewrsity of Hawaii for its programmes of awareness-raising on this subject throughout New Caledonia. The programme is named Initiative pour les Tortues Marines de Nouvelle-Calédonie, ITMNC for short.

The New Caledonian context

anim-hors-nou-copyNew Caledonia is, after Australia, the second major nesting site for two species of marine turtles in the Pacific: the green turtle and the loggerhead turtle. However, the conservation issues remain mostly unknown of the general public, and protection legislation is difficult to enforce.

Education and raising public awareness is a long-term project, but the addition of the New Caledonian lagoon to the UN World Heritage list has given new impetus to the political will to act, and the public is increasingly involved in the management of the nesting sites.

ITNMC must take advantage of this context and push its conservation message further.

First achievements

Over the last few years, the programme achieved:

  • compiling a fairly comprehensive bibliography on the subject of marine turtles, including scientific articles (biology, migrations, care of turtles, etc.), educational material (colouring books, games, etc.), and press reviews. These documents are made accessible to schools.
  • Establishment an image and logo, identifying its communications.
  • Establishment a network of local participants, and contributing to the national "Groupe Tortues Marines France".
  • Production its own educational material (model of a turtle nest, information posters) to be used during special events.
  • Publication a booklet on turtles, in collaboration with the Centre d'Initiation à l'Environnement.
  • Propose a weekly "turtle show" at the Aquarium (every Saturday), dealing with the biology and life cycle of marine turtles, and the various threats to their survival to the schools and the public.
  • Setting up a 3-month exhibition on the same subjects, covering 100 m2 of exhibit space, with films, models, posters, etc.
  • Setting up information booths in most of the rural trade and agricultural fairs throughout the territory which had any connection with the marine world, and particularly the one staged by the Northern Province in March 2010.
  • Organising the tagging and release of ten turtles which had been under care in the Aquarium's "turtle clinic".

Future plans

The programme financed by JIMAR has now acquired a certain momentum, which we need to apply to helping both official and private initiatives (associations) in establishing local conservation action plans.

The programme will continue to focus on the following aims :

  • To protect nesting sites, particularly by protecting them from dogs and other predators.
    • To minimise threats to turtle habitats.
  • To discourage any interference with turtles in the act of laying eggs.
  • To combat the disposal of rubbish, particularly plastics, in the marine environment.

To these ends, the person in charge of the programme will use all available means at her disposal (models, puppet shows, colouring books, books, etc.) to raise the awareness of the issues among volunteer workers in the field.

The programme will pay particular attention to:

  • Creating a travelling exhibition based on the permanent exhibition set up at the Aquarium, and setting it up in the various rural towns and villages.
  • Running these exhibitions, either using programme members or local volunteers.
  • Ensuring good media coverage of the work done in the Aquarium's "turtle clinic" in order to raise public awareness of the threats to marine turtles resulting from human activities.
  • Setting up a data-base of all relevant case histories.
  • Contributing to the gathering of genetic material in order to further the pursuit of knowledge concerning Pacific turtles.
  • continue to present special events and exhibitions on turtles at the Aquarium.