Protected turtles killed by stray dogs in Guyana: an association alarmed

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Since the end of May, thirteen turtles have been found dead on a beach where they came to lay eggs, in the town of Rémire-Montjoly, in French Guiana. They were killed by dogs unattended by their masters. A local association is concerned about the impact of these attacks – more than in previous years – on turtle eggs, protected and “weakened” species, and criticized the inaction of municipalities in the face of the problem.

The Kwata association sounded the alarm for the first time, on May 23, about a green turtle found dead on a small beach in Rémire-Montjoly. It is a commune in the town of Cayenne, Guyana, a unique collectivity of French territory, located in northern Brazil. Kwata is a local association for the study and protection of nature, formed in 1994.

Since then, twelve olive ridley sea turtles have been found dead on the same beach, where they came to lay eggs.

The green turtle was found dead on a beach in Rémire -Montjoly on May 23. Signs of dogs and Urubus – a scavenger raptor – can be seen on his side. © Kwata Association.

“If nothing can be done to prevent turtle attacks, there could be a real impact on egg production”

Benoit de Thoisy is the director of the Kwata association:

By now, that’s the beginning of the olive ridley’s spawning season: there are already 1500 eggs, which means 600 or 700 females have arrived to lay eggs. There, there is another month of clutches, which is important, because there are an average of 3000 to 5000 clutches per year, because 1500 to 2500 women come each year, in total. If nothing can be done to prevent a turtle attack, it could have a real effect on spawning. In addition, these protected species are already vulnerable, especially in accidental capture at sea.

An olive ridley turtle was found dead off the coast of Rémire-Montjoly on June 27. Eggs can be found next to it.
An olive ridley turtle was found dead off the coast of Rémire-Montjoly on June 27. Eggs can be found next to it. © Kwata Association.

Three species of sea turtles regularly lay eggs in French Guiana: the green turtle, olive ridley turtle and the leatherback turtle. They are on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s red list: the former is considered “endangered”, and the other two “vulnerable”. So they were protected by France.

In general, only “one or two turtles” are found dead off the Guyanese coast each year, according to the Kwata association.

An olive ridley turtle attacked a beach in Rémire-Montjoly, June 22. Traces of dogs and vultures can be seen in the sand.
An olive ridley turtle attacked a beach in Rémire-Montjoly, June 22. Traces of dogs and vultures can be seen in the sand. © Kwata Association.

“Turtles have their necks and legs torn”

Benoit de Thoisy continues:

The small beach of Rémire -Montjoly – where thirteen turtles were killed – is the only place where we have observed this problem since the end of May. This has been favorable for spawning again this year, as a large mud bank has moved, so the turtles have access to it again. But from the start of the spawning season, we had fears, because we knew there were dogs nearby. The last time many turtles were killed by dogs was about ten years ago, on the same beach: about sixty were killed.

We know they are killed by dogs – and not by jaguars for example – for a number of reasons. This can already be seen in their wounds: turtles are torn in the neck and legs, while they are cut off when they are attacked by cats. In addition, we saw dog tracks in the sand around the turtles. They attack in groups, unlike cats. And then, residents saw that they were being attacked by dogs. Apparently they do it for “fun”, because they don’t eat it. Turtles come out of the water just to lay eggs: so they are killed before, during or after laying eggs.

The association found the footprints of an olive ridley turtle and dogs, as well as blood, on the sand on a beach in Rémire-Montjoly on June 21. © Kwata Association.

The olive ridley turtle was found dead off the coast of Rémire-Montjoly on June 21. According to the Kwata association, he was able to return to sea after the attack, but died immediately, and was stranded not far away.
The olive ridley turtle was found dead off the coast of Rémire-Montjoly on June 21. According to the Kwata association, he was able to return to sea after the attack, but died immediately, and was stranded not far away. © Kwata Association.

“Stray dogs attacked them”

According to the Kwata association, “stray” dogs attacked the turtles. According to the French Rural and Maritime Fisheries Code, a dog is considered “in a state of wandering” when it is no longer under the control of its owner, unless it is used to hunt or care for a herd.

This text forbids stray dogs, and the mayors must prevent them from straying. Municipal police must prevent or fix “unfortunate events” that may be caused by their raids, according to the General Code of Territorial Communities.

Benoit de Thoisy describes:

These are just a few dogs, belonging to two or three owners: they are well known. According to residents, these dogs also attacked walkers and dogs on a leash.

We have already alerted the mayor and the municipal police about the turtle attacks, but so far they have not reacted.

In addition, because turtles are protected species, this problem is also subject to the Environmental Code and the police of the French Office for Biodiversity. [un établissement public de l’État, NDLR]. In recent days, we have also seen agents from the French Office for Biodiversity patrolling, to try to catch the dogs in “flagrante delicto”. So far, it’s only the police who are reacting.

In addition, awareness work has already been done by dog ​​owners in the area, so that they are aware of the law. There was a lot of good reaction, but it was clearly not enough.

A poster was published on May 24, on the Facebook page of Réseau Tortues Marines Guyane, to educate dog owners about straying.
A poster was published on May 24, on the Facebook page of Réseau Tortues Marines Guyane, to educate dog owners about straying. © French Guiana Marine Turtle Network.

Our editorial team called the town hall and the municipal police of Rémire-Montjoly, and sent them questions by e-mail, at their request. We will publish their answers when they reach us.

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