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The amazing story of 46 juvenile turtles from the Oceanographic Museum to Senegal.

Updated: Jan 14

In the best tradition of the Christmas season that we are now experiencing the Oceanographic Museum wanted to make a special contribution to the preservation of natural species. It all started on Saturday the 10th December when forty-six African spurred tortoises (Centrochelys sulcata), the largest mainland existing species, left the Oceanographic Museum within a specific 3-year programme to strengthen local biodiversity, promoted by the Institute Océanographique de Monaco. This first stage was carried out in the presence of H.S.H. Prince Albert II and H.S.H. Princess Charlene of Monaco, accompanied by their children, Hereditary Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella.

Photo >> The African spurred tortoises hosted at the Musée Océnographique de Monaco ©Institut_oceanographique_de_Monaco_Michel_Dagnino

Seven tortoises of the total hosted at the Musée Océanographique have been donated to the Sovereign Prince by H.E. Amadou Toumani Touré, President of Mali, and then entrusted to the care of the Oceanographic Museum's experts by the will of Robert Calcagno, Director General of the Oceanographic Institute. The main mission was to increase visitor awareness of endangered species through a dedicated environment called 'L’île aux Tortues' (The Island of Turtles), set in the panoramic terrace of the Museum.

Photo >> H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco and Princess Charlene of Monaco greet the turtles before departure in the presence of Robert Calcagno (Oceanographic Museum, 10th December 2022) © Institut_oceanographique_de_Monaco_Philippe_Fitte

Robert Calcagno pointed out: « Protecting animal species, from land to sea, and making them known to the general public is a major issue for the future. The welcome of these tortoises, an animal now threatened, allowed their reproduction while raising awareness among visitors to their necessary preservation. The follow-up to this reception is to work towards strengthening the local wild populations ».

Photo >> The tortoises hosted in six special boxes boarded at Paris Charles De Gaulle international airport © Institut_oceanographique_de_Monaco_Olivier_Borde

The favourable conditions allowed the turtles to reproduce and give birth to 49 new born. A number considered as not sustainable to keep going at the Oceanographic Museum. The Senegal Centre for the Protection of Turtles will take care of them for two years before reintegrating them into the wild into the Koyli Alpha Nature Reserve in the northwest of the country. Tomas Diagne, a world-renowned turtle expert and winner of the Rolex Prize for Entrepreneurship in 1998, highlighted: « This operation is exemplary for us because in Africa, turtles are almost always exported to feed international trade. It is therefore rare and salutary to see them return to strengthen the already weakened wild populations ».

Photo >> Olivier Brunel checking the tortoises' state of health at Paris Charles De Gaulle international airport © Institut_oceanographique_de_Monaco_Olivier_Borde
The intercontinental journey of baby tortoises.

On Saturday the 10th the tortoises were hosted in six containers specifically designed for them. They started their journey to Paris Charles De Gaulle international airport where a special flight on board an Air France KLM Martinair Cargo was there for them. That confirmed the total commitment of the airline to the protection of the environment and the preservation of endangered species, as reaffirmed by Mathieu Fleich, VP Product & Verticals for AFKLMP Cargo.

Photo >> The reunion of the two teams at the arrival of the tortoises in Senegal (Blaise Diagne international airport, 12th December 2022) © Institut_oceanographique_de_Monaco_Urielle_Kouk

The boxes containing the young guests arrived at Blaise Diagne international airport in Senegal at 8:45 p.m. on Monday the 12th December 2022. The working groups gathered after a long period of remote working. Olivier Brunel, Head of the Aquarium Department of the Oceanographic Museum, met Tomas Diagne, founder of the African Chelonian Institute. After checking their health, baby turtles took the direction of the Village des Tortues, located in Noflaye.

Photo >> The tortoises are released in the quarantine area within Village des Tortues, Noflaye (13th December 2022) © Institut_oceanographique_de_Monaco_Urielle_Kouk

On December the 13th at 10:00 a.m., all boxes entered the Village and were unveiled in the presence of various authorities, including Colonel Ibrahima Gueye, representative of the Ministry of Environment of Senegal, Commander Doudou Sow, Representative of the Directorate of Water, Forests, Hunting and Soil Conservation. The goal has been reached.

Photo >> The tortoises arrived at their destination in the Village des Tortues, (Noflaye,13th December 2022) © Institut_oceanographique_de_Monaco_Urielle_Kouk

The tortoises are currently placed in a 'quarantine' where they will stay for six months. This measure aims at making them being accustomed to their new environment (climate, food, etc.) and to monitor their health, in order to ensure that their introduction into the natural environment does not pose any risk to them or the wild population. The juvenile turtles will be then transferred to a fenced part of the reserve for one year, in order to put them in direct contact to wild nature. Finally, they will be released in the natural reserve under the watchful eyes of experienced staff and in the footsteps of recommendations and guidelines of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). A series of related educational initiatives will involve local school students in the nature conservation project. ***

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