Turtle nests are thriving at beaches around military sites in Cyprus following conservation efforts by the Ministry of Defence and civilian volunteers to protect the species.
A total of 172 Green and Loggerhead turtle nests were identified in 2022 within the Western and Eastern Sovereign Base Areas (SBA) and at Akrotiri, Episkopi and Dhekelia – home to UK Armed Forces supporting ongoing operations in the region.
Volunteers made up of military and civilian personnel play a vital role in keeping a close eye on all nesting beaches. In addition to reporting turtle tracks they also report illegal and damaging activities. Nests have come under threat in recent years for a variety of reasons, including invasive species and human activity, however volunteering efforts have transformed nesting sites for turtles.
SBAA Environmental Officer, Alexia Perdiou said:
We are delighted with the increasing numbers of turtle nests on beaches in the Bases in recent years, which is down to the vital work we do alongside our legion of military and civilian volunteers – patrolling beaches and searching for turtle tracks in the early hours of the morning every day throughout the summer months.
Being careful to not directly interact with any turtles or hatchlings, we ensure that nesting sites are protected from both human activity and invasive predators, which alongside wider conservation efforts being done throughout Cyprus will ensure these incredible animals continue to thrive.
The Sovereign Base Areas Administration (SBAA) Environment Department co-ordinates turtle conservation work which focuses on minimum intervention, follows international best practices and mirrors the work undertaken in the rest of Cyprus. The work of the Department would not have been so successful without the invaluable help from volunteers who walk nesting beaches daily to identify turtle tracks so that nests can be protected until they hatch.
The valuable co-operation between volunteers, the SBAA Environment Department and the SBA Police has resulted in the addressing of almost all offences on nesting beaches and a strong message has gone to beach users on the safeguarding of turtle nesting habitat, nests and hatchlings.
The SBAA is supported by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), who provide Stewardship Funding to carry out conservation work to safeguard nesting beaches to meet common objectives and statutory obligations for protecting designated sites and habitats.
DIO environmental staff based out in Cyprus also ensure that the conservation status of the turtles and their habitats is not compromised, by carefully managing and designing military activities and projects.
DIO Technical Services Environmental Adviser in Cyprus, David Reynolds said:
I am really delighted with this upturn in breeding success, it’s the result of a unique and strong partnership spanning many years of hard work and now we can really start to see the results of our work.
Efforts to protect turtle nesting beaches include the blocking of access points to prevent people from driving on the seashore, and enforcement work to prevent and address damaging and illegal activities such as overnight camping and late-night beach parties lighting fires.