Maputo — A hotel worker in the southern Mozambican resort of Ponta Malongane was caught red-handed killing a turtle last week, according to a report in Monday's issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”.
The female loggerhead turtle had just laid her eggs on the Ponta Malongane beach on 24 October when she was attacked. The poacher had intended to kill the turtle and sell her meat. But a group of monitors, who are guarding turtle nesting sites, intervened and detained the man.
The monitors helped the wounded turtle back into the sea, and it swam off. But two days later it was found dead at Techobanine, a little to the north of Ponta Malongane.
All species of turtle are protected under Mozambican law.
Anyone who kills or captures a turtle, destroys turtle nesting sites or steals turtle eggs can be fined 50,000 meticais (about 1,620 US dollars).
The poacher told the police he did not possess 50,000 meticais, and promised to pay the fine in instalments. He signed a declaration to this effect with the Ponta do Ouro Marine Reserve, which covers Ponta Malongane. If he fails to pay the instalments, he will be jailed.
The administrator of the reserve, Miguel Goncalves, said allowing the poacher to pay in instalments was preferable to locking him up. If he was jailed immediately, he would lose his job, and might become a full-time poacher.
This is the first incident recorded in the current turtle nesting season in southern Mozambique. For the past 20 years the turtle nesting sites have been monitored. The reserve's own rangers work with local monitors to patrol the beaches at night.
They not only protect the turtles but record how many females come ashore to lay eggs, in an attempt to estimate the size of the nesting turtle population in the reserve.