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New Hotel development New hotel developments, like this one in Sri Lanka are destroying natural sea shores where turtles lay their eggs.

Building on the beach

The development of new hotels can literally destroy the key parts of beaches that turtles most need for their nests. Many sea front hotels replace the soft sand and vegetation at the top of a beach with a concrete barrier around the property. The shore line of many Kenyan resorts such as Diani beach is a typical example of this type of development where the beach is backed by a continuous line of concrete.

Today in Kenya, a battle is being fought between developers and conservationists at one of the countries few remaining untouched nesting sites, Funzi Island. A large sea wall has already been built along the shoreline in preparation for the construction of a holiday resort complex. In Mexico, at the beaches of Cancun, Mazatlan, Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta similar development has occurred. These areas were once visited by many turtles, but now sightings are rare.

Any turtles that do find their way on to such beaches are likely to return to the sea when they find that their preferred nesting sites no longer exist; or they may lay their eggs lower down the beach where they will be vulnerable to dist urbance or flooding from high tides. At the Costa Rican beaches of Tamarindo, Flamingo and Brasilito

which 20 years ago were key sites for leather-back turtles, nests are now virtually unknown due to the rapid development of beach hotels, restaurants and huts. In comparison , at nearby Playa Grande, part of the Baulas National Park, a 100 meter exclusion zone was created along the shore to maintain natural vegetation. Here turtles are still found in good numbers.

Large hotels close to a beach can also affect the temperature of the sand. This can have dramatic consequences on turtle nests since the development of hatchlings is dependent on temperature. Eggs at lower temperatures take longer to develop and emerging hatchlings are more likely to be male; eggs at higher temperatures develop quicker and hatchlings tend to be female. Large areas of shading created by hotels can lower sand temperatures by between one and two degrees cen tigrade and can disrupt the natural balance of male to female hatchlings.

On Heron Island, Australia, green turtles have been deterred from nesting on the sunniest parts of the bay by development, and virtually all nesting has been confined to the cooler more shaded parts of the beach. It has been calculated th at because the temperature of the nests has been reduced fewer females hatchlings are emerging.

Trouble spot

The government of Guinea Bissau is planning to establish a major new tourist resort and duty free zone on the Bijagos archipelago. The region is the most important turtle habitat in West Africa and is home to the largest colony of green t urtles in the Eastern Atlantic.

Turtle friendly tourism

  • Any developments in rural coastal locations should be appropriate to the local environment. In most cases, small scale, low-rise hotels are less likely to have an impact on turtle behaviour.
  • Hotels should be set well back from the shore to ensure that beach front vegetation is not destroyed, and to prevent the possibility of shade reducing nest temperatures.

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WSPA's campaign booklet - Turtle Alert! has been adapted for the WWW by EuroTurtle, which is a Web based project by MEDASSET International (Mediterranean Association to Save the Sea Turtles), Exeter University (UK) and the Biology Department of King's College,Taunton, UK. EuroTurtle is Europe's first Sea Turtle Biology & Conservation Web Site for Science and Education.

Copyright © 1997, WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals).
These pages are the intellectual property of WSPA.
Permission to copy these materials must be obtained from WSPA.