The Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles is unique because it houses some of the world’s most ancient corals, from over 125,000 years old. It is also home to one of the largest populations of green turtles on earth.
When the atoll was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1982, its green turtle population was nearly extinct. By introducing strict protection measures for nesting beaches around the Aldabra Atoll, the number of these giant tortoises nesting annually, increased from 500-800 in the late 1960s to 3100-5225 in 2011.
Today, Aldabra Atoll’s green turtle population is the largest in the Western Indian Ocean region, and is growing every year. The atoll’s management is run as a professional enterprise today, led by the Seychelles Island Foundation (SIF). Its UNESCO World Heritage status has helped to keep the area largely free from development, and to secure a regular flow of income through tourism.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, sustainable tourism played a critical role in sustaining major scientific and monitoring programmes. Much of this support is now facing an uncertain future. This comes at a time when coral reefs are deteriorating rapidly due the effects of climate change.
Today, the marine sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List form a network of fifty protected areas across thirty-seven nations, stretching from the tropics to the poles. Recent research shows that green turtles from the Aldabra Atoll travel across the marine World Heritage sites network – some of them going as far as the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador.
The research highlights the ecosystem connectivity of ocean areas around the globe, and stresses the critical importance of international conservation mechanisms such as the 1972 World Heritage Convention to protect them.
Rebuilding marine life, The UNESCO Courier, January-March 2021