The 10th annual Seychelles Sea Turtle Festival took place on Silhouette Island on Saturday, 20 August 2022. The Island Conservation Society (ICS), Hilton Labriz, the Island Academy, and Sea Turtle Friends of Seychelles (STFS) joined hands to create a phenomenal day for both adults and children. 2022 is the 10th Anniversary of the formation of Sea Turtle Friends of Seychelles, an NGO whose primary objective has been to organize the annual Sea Turtle Festival. The purpose of the Festival has been to raise awareness amongst children and their families about sea turtle natural history and the need to protect these wonderful, but endangered species. Sea turtles are an important part of the natural heritage of Seychelles and a great attraction for the thousands of tourists who visit Seychelles every year.
The day began with morning refreshments, followed by a turtle patrol, guided by the ICS Team led by Ms Nasreen Khan (ICS Conservation Officer, Silhouette) and Dr Jeanne Mortimer of STFS (also known as “Madamn Torti”) a turtle expert with 41 years of experience in Seychelles. The crowd learned what turtle conservation involves, including all the Do's and Don'ts when encountering sea turtle adults and hatchlings on the beach.
Then the children moved on to the Hilton’s Kids Island Academy Centre where they engaged in face painting and took part in an “Amazing Race” that taught them about the natural environment within the Hilton Hotel grounds.
After lunch, an energetic parade of children of all ages and adults made its way along the Silhouette roads adjacent to the hotel. The parade featured the Hilton Labriz Kids Train, with children riding inside its three cars. The children waved sea turtle posters that they had created during the previous week. They also shouted their enthusiasm for sea turtle protection while accompanied by the tunes “Baby Shark” and “Yellow Submarine” which were broadcast loudly from the first car of the train. Adults marched alongside the Kids Train in solidarity with the children, and the air was filled with a passion for the protection and conservation of endangered sea turtles.
Legal protection was afforded to all sea turtles in Seychelles in 1994. Unfortunately, sea turtles within the inner granitic islands continue to face pressure from people who poach them for meat. Another threat is damage to foraging and nesting habitats in areas of poorly regulated coastal development. Educating the public about these issues and the importance of protecting sea turtles is crucial to conserving the sea turtle populations of Seychelles, which are a vital part of the marine ecosystem.
Since its inception in 2013, Sea Turtle Friends of Seychelles has coordinated the Sea Turtle Festival every year. In the early years (2013-2017) it took place on Mahé, then on Praslin in 2018, and on La Digue in 2019. During 2020 and 2021 the Sea Turtle Festival was celebrated online due to Covid.
“Now that Covid is in retreat, it is wonderful to see that Silhouette Island has revived the tradition in force! STFS is grateful to Hilton Labriz and Island Conservation Society (ICS) for hosting the event this year. We hope that the Seychelles Sea Turtle Festival will continue every year moving forward!” said Dr Mortimer.