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Saving the Most Endangered Turtle Species in Africa

Tomas Diagne opened Senegal’s first rescue facility to revive endangered turtles and has produced award-winning results. In the last 26 years, he has established centres for turtle protection and captive breeding programmes and is working with Senegalese authorities to rewild animals intercepted in the illegal pet trade. With no blueprint to follow, he really is breaking new ground. “In Africa, conservation is a relatively new concept because animals and resources were always plentiful,” he explains, as we paddle along the waterways of Tocc Tocc Community Reserve at Lac de Guiers in northern Senegal. “But now with population growth the balance is changing.” An important habitat for manatees and water birds, this wildlife sanctuary is one of Tomas’ proudest achievements. He admits it took 15 hard years to persuade communities to change their habits and protect the wetlands. Now they no longer see turtles as a food source, and improved fishing practices have resulted in less bycatch.