Sea Turtle Conservation


Ghana Sea Turtle Research & Conservation Program

The world’s oceans are home to seven species of marine turtles, five of which utilize the eastern Atlantic  Ocean of West Africa. Sea turtle populations have been depleted around the globe due primarily to fishery by-catch, harvesting, and degradation of nesting habitats. Protecting and recovering the populations is difficult because of their complicated life history that involves significant migrations between breeding and foraging grounds, habitat shifts at different life stages, and many unknowns (neonate habitat and juvenile habitats, male activity). This requires us to learn more about these animals throughout their range and develop international management plans to ensure all life stages are fully protected. A significant amount of effort has been placed on this challenge in North and Central America, Caribbean, and Australia; but we still know very little about these animals in Africa. In 2006 I collaborated with the University of Ghana to establish the first sea turtle tagging and conservation program in the country. Since 2007 we have supported multiple international and local interns that assist with sea turtle nesting surveys that include tagging all individuals (flipper and PIT tags), measuring morphometrics, collecting tissue samples, and recording location. Interns also participate in education programs and other community activities. The project is co-directed by my colleague (and friend) Andrews Agyekumhene (King Andy!) with the Wildlife Division of the Ghana Forestry Commission. The Wildlife Division is the sole authority in Ghana to enforce wildlife regulations. The Wildlife Division utilizes a unique model of conservation that includes community participation in all aspects of a management plan. So program succeeds because of the significant amount of community involvement built into the program. Through research, education and ecotourism we strive to build the local capacity for Ghanaians to protect and save their turtles. This approach has successfully eliminated poaching and harvesting, reduced fishery by-catch, increased awareness and attitude for protecting wildlife, and increased ecotourism in the area.  

Andy is a member of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group and the International Sea Turtle Society. He has ten years of experience working with sea turtle conservation in Ghana. I am a member of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group and the IUCN Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group and have been active in the International Sea Turtle Society for 20 years.

In March 2018 we hosted the first Ghana National Sea Turtle Conference at the University of Ghana, Legon Campus. The meeting brought together over 50 participants from government agencies, non-government organizations, and academia/research to discuss the current status of sea turtle conservation in Ghana. We identified significant gaps in our knowledge of Ghana’s sea turtles and established a list of actionable items that will improve conservation and research activities along the entire coast.

Andy and the Mankoadze field team that works through each night to ensure the protection of Ghana’s nesting sea turtles.

Below is a sample of photographs from the project.

The first sea turtles ever tagged in Ghana - August 2006:

Nesting surveys provide research and learning opportunities for international and Ghanaian interns and students. Many of our past Ghanaians interns are now employed by the Wildlife Division or are now enrolled at one of Ghana’s Universities.

Our research includes the use of satellite telemetry and genetic analyses to determine the geographic range of the nesting populations in Ghana. This information is vital for establishing international conservation strategies.

Community outreach and education is a vital component of the project.

We promote ecotourism opportunities through the Ghana Wildlife Division to ensure 100% of money is invested directly back into conservation.

The support from community members is crucial in protecting Ghana’s sea turtles. Many fishermen and other community members have actively assisted in rescuing turtles.

Contact us if you would like to become part of an ever-growing team of biologists dedicated to protecting sea turtles in Ghana.