Globally important refuge for the loggerhead sea turtle: Maio Island, Cabo Verde

Juan Patino-Martinez, Leno Dos Passos, Inês O. Afonso, Arnau Teixidor, Manjula Tiwari, Tamás Székely, Rocío Moreno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (SciVal)


One of the largest nesting colonies of the Vulnerable loggerhead sea turtle Caretta caretta is in Cabo Verde. Here we present the first comprehensive study of loggerhead turtle nesting on the island of Maio in Cabo Verde. During 2016-2019 we monitored 38 km of undeveloped sandy beaches that have minimal artificial lighting and where all nesting on Maio takes place. We counted 4,063 nests in 2016, 5,429 in 2017, 14,364 in 2018 and 7,937 in 2019. The estimated total number of females was 1,016, 1,357, 3,591 and 1,984 in each of these years, respectively. Our findings suggest there are more loggerhead turtles nesting in Cabo Verde than previously estimated, and that this could be the species' largest nesting subpopulation (followed by Florida, USA and Oman). The inter-annual hatching success (the proportion of eggs producing hatchlings) was 29-38% for the whole island but varied between sites. Our study of 250 clutches showed that flooding affected 38-61% and predation by crabs 40-42%, with hatching success on different beaches in the range of 1-59%. Poaching of eggs was rare (< 2% of clutches), but dogs predated 68.4% of all clutches on the beach nearest the largest human settlement. We evaluated different nest management strategies at multiple sites and estimated productivity of hatchlings (the number of hatchlings that would reach the sea for each management strategy), finding that hatcheries are not always the best option for nest management. As the beaches on Maio are relatively undisturbed, and there is a high abundance and density of turtle nests, the island should be protected as a globally important site for the conservation of the loggerhead turtle, and of coastal biodiversity more broadly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-62
Issue number1
Early online date5 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2022


  • Cabo Verde
  • Caretta caretta
  • conservation management
  • conservation status
  • hatchery
  • hatching success
  • loggerhead sea turtle
  • nest management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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