Advanced technology enhancing convectional efforts: use of drone patrols in a effective anti-poaching for loggerhead turtles

Published: 08 August 2023
Last edited: 08 August 2023
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Cabo Verde is, probably, the largest nesting site in the world for Loggerhead turtles, listed as threatened on the IUCN Red List, nevertheless, many threats are compromising their survival. One of the main threats for adult turtles in Sal Island is hunting of nesting females which increased during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, foot and drone patrols were implemented within three MPA’s, and in suitable flying conditions, the accessible bays of a fourth MPA was also patrolled. These patrolled were enhanced by the purchase of more advanced drones with infra-red imaging. Local employment, targeted at nearby communities to the MPA’s, and community initiatives were also crucial as part of the solution. As a result, poaching levels were drastically reduced within all targeted MPA’s, community partnerships were strengthened and overall protection within the MPA’s was reinforced. This project was supported by the European Union and the Organisation of ACP States through the BIOPAMA Programme.


West and Central Africa
Scale of implementation
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Local actors
Poaching and environmental crime
Protected and conserved areas governance
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 14 – Life below water


Santa Maria, Sal, Cape Verde | Murdeira - Sal - Cape Verde


An increase in poaching levels covering large nesting areas in response to the COVID-19 pandemic were addressed directly via use of drone patrols using advanced technology with infra-red capabilities, allowing detection and response to poaching activity. Foot patrols were also increased in the most affected MPA of Murdeira with daily assistance from the military. Employment for this patrol team was targeted at the neighbouring community, considered to be a contributor to the increase in poaching, as a means of sensitisation within the local population. Other sensitisation strategies were implemented with the strengthening of the community partnership with the local Fishermen’s Associations, who conducted voluntary patrols in their local areas.


The Delegation of the Ministry of Agriculture and Environment
National Police
The Military
The City Hall
Fishermen's Associations
Local employees of Projeto Biodiversidade
Local tour guides (turtle-watching excursions)
The population of Sal in general

How do the building blocks interact?

In order to implement effective patrols, training was given to all employees and stakeholders that would be relied upon throughout the nesting season. Through continuous training and a greater understanding of conservation practices, the patrol team were provided with the skills and knowledge to allow a greater satisfaction in their job and therefore an increased level of empathy in conserving this turtle population.  Effective foot patrols, assisted by the military, were enhanced by the use of advanced technology, and, upon detection of infractions within the targeted areas, the national police were called upon to respond to such infractions. With the limited accessibility for some nesting beaches, despite the ability of the advanced technology to detect infractions, detainment of those people was not always possible. For this reason, the combination of this advanced technology to act as a deterrent and the continued sensitisation of the local population work hand in hand as an effective long-term solution in conserving an endangered turtle population.


The population of Sal in general have benefitted from this project through improved protection of the loggerhead population. Eco-tourism activities surrounding this species were a continuing attraction which are known to generate over 500,000€ of income per year. Directly, this project benefitted 11 young people (7 rangers, 2 drone pilots and 2 assistants) through employment during the nesting season, therefore additionally benefitting their families with a generated income. The local fishermen’s associations received further training and conducted nightly patrols on a beach bordering one of the targeted MPA’s. Enforcement authorities engaged and participated in the antipoaching patrols, with training given to more than 120 new soldiers which joined the patrols daily. Strengthening of protection within the MPA’s; poaching was reduced by 84% in the MPA of Costa Fragata, 81% in the MPA of Murdeira and 45% in the MPA of Ponta Sino. In total, 551 drone flights were conducted, over 123 hours of flight, covering four MPA’s.



During and after the COVID-19 epidemic, poaching within the MPA of Murdeira increased drastically, attributed in part to the nearby community which had a high rate of unemployment and poor living conditions. In response, in 2021 a volunteering initiative was introduced, and in 2022 was built on by targeting these volunteers for recruitment. One candidate was a known poacher within the community, however through direct contact with the project he became the primary contact point in further engaging the community. He volunteered for patrols in 2021 and assisted in other community outreach outside of the turtle season and was therefore employed in 2022. Throughout his employment he has shown reform in his attitude to turtles, has gained skills in turtle conservation, has demonstrated commitment to the preservation of turtles and has secured a job for future nesting seasons.

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Artur Lopes Ass. Projeto Biodiversidade

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Ass. Projeto Biodiversidade
Ass. Projeto Biodiversidade