Thanks to the Go Abroad Fund, I was able to pursue a volunteering opportunity in Sal, one of the ten islands that make up Cape Verde. Sal has an arid climate, as well as a volcanic and desert landscape, which makes or some incredible black-sanded beaches.
I was working with Projeto Biodiversidade, a local Cape Verdean NGO, dedicated to the protection and conservation of the large population of loggerhead turtles that nest and hatch on the island. Although loggerhead turtles are protected internationally, the species is currently classed as endangered. Loggerheads face threats from poaching, predation and increasing growth in tourism on the island that causes light pollution that disorientate the hatchlings as they try and find their way back to the sea.
Work as a volunteer mainly consisted of patrolling at night the beaches the turtles nest on, with a Field Assistant, taking data on the turtles’ activity, and on morning patrols, helping with the relocations of nests if they are threatened.
Shortly after I arrived, the hatching season had just started, and I was lucky enough to see hatchlings being released into the sea. Although only 1 in 1000 turtles will ever make it to reproductive age, the work Projeto Biodiversidade does by making sure every single hatchling makes it to the sea, greatly increases the chance of turtles making it to adulthood. Watching the baby turtles take their first steps on the beach into the sea was an incredibly moving and beautiful moment.
Although the work was hard and extremely tiring, it was a highly rewarding opportunity to be part of a project that does such invaluable work to the conservation of this beautiful species. Since working there, my knowledge of conservation has greatly broadened, and I admire the tireless work of the people who spend the whole season there. As well as this, I witnessed first-hand the immensity of the plastic pollution and general waste problem we face nowadays. The growing tourism causes the beaches to become increasingly polluted and often creates unsafe environments for the turtles to nest on, sometimes cutting their flippers on bits of glass as they build their nests. Finally, it was a unique opportunity for me to practice and broaden my knowledge of Portuguese, a language of my degree, from which I have just graduated.