Marine turtles of the African east coast: current knowledge and priorities for conservation and research
Although published literature regarding the 5 species of marine turtle found along the continental African east coast has grown substantially over the last decades, a comprehensive synthesis of their status and ecology is lacking. Using a mixed methods approach, which combined an exhaustive literature review and expert elicitation, we assessed the distribution and magnitude of nesting, foraging areas, connectivity, and anthropogenic threats for these species in Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, and South Africa. A complex pattern of nesting sites, foraging areas, and migration pathways emerged that identified areas of high importance in all 5 countries, although significant data gaps remain, especially for Somalia. Illegal take, bycatch, and loss of foraging and nesting habitat were identified as the most serious anthropogenic threats. Although these threats are broadly similar along most of the coast, robust data that enable quantification of the impacts are scarce. Experts identified regional strengths and opportunities, as well as impediments to turtle conservation. Topics such as legislation and enforcement, collaboration, local stakeholders, and funding are discussed, and future directions suggested. Given the projected growth in human population along the continental African east coast and expected accompanying development, anthropogenic pressures on turtle populations are set to increase. Stronger regional collaboration and coordination within conservation and research efforts are needed if current and future challenges are to be tackled effectively.