Sea turtle conservation programme in Con Dao National Park, Vietnam

Con Dao National Park
Published: 05 February 2021
Last edited: 05 February 2021
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Summary

The sea turtle conservation activities started since the establishment of Con Dao Forbidden Forest in 1984. After the site was upgraded to a national park in 1993, with support from international organizations, the park has implemented a sea turtle conservation programme with a number of actions including protection, monitoring, support breeding, and communication on sea turtle conservation targeting different groups. From 2014, a volunteer programme was started, and recently, the involvement of private sector helped diversify the resources for the programme.
After more than 30 years, Con Dao is now the most successful and largest reproductive sea turtle population in Vietnam. In 2020, more than 700 mother turtles recorded breeding in Con Dao, and the park has hatched and released more than 170,000 baby turtles.
This conservation programme performs a good example where a combination of actions and the coordination of all stakeholders can lead to success in conserving a globally endangered species group.

Classifications

Region
Southeast Asia
Scale of implementation
National
Subnational
Ecosystem
Beach
Coral reef
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Theme
Adaptation
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Disaster risk reduction
Marine litter
Mitigation
Outreach & communications
Species management
Sustainable financing
Tourism
Challenges
Loss of Biodiversity
Sea level rise
Pollution (incl. eutrophication and litter)
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 11: Protected areas
Target 12: Reducing risk of extinction
Target 20: Mobilizing resources from all sources

Location

Côn Sơn, Đảo Côn Sơn, Huyện Côn Đảo, Ba Ria-Vung Tau 794300, Vietnam

Challenges

Conservation of sea-turtles in Con Dao is facing a number of threats, such as: physical catching for meet or eggs, marine pollution, and natural phenomena. To overcome those, given the fact that the turtle population are now using different beaches in several islands, the current state-investment and available resources are not enough. Shortages in human and financial resources was a huge challenge for the park managers in their sea-turtle conservation efforts.

Beneficiaries

  • Sea turtle species and other marine life
  • Con Dao National Park
  • Con Dao district's tourism sector

 

How do the building blocks interact?

Starting from initial efforts of Con Dao National Park, the sea turtle conservation work has obtained positive results. However, due to a lack of resources, the park managers were challenged in expanding this activity. With support from international organizations, a Sea Turtle Conservation Volunteer Programme was launched in the mid-2010s to help overcoming this shortage. The Volunteer Programme not only helps replenish resources, but also helps communicating and changing perceptions toward biodiversity conservation. This change of perception has affected a private enterprise, Con Dao Resort Co. Ltd., to a move from simple CSR actions such as charity programmes or coastal clean-up campaigns to direct participation and investment in sea turtle conservation. These initiatives are now providing important additional resources to the Government's  efforts in conserving marine biodiversity. This is a good example that other protected areas in Vietnam can learn to help socializing resources for conservation work.

Impacts

Before the the establishment of a protected area in Con Dao, sea turtle (as well as other marine life) fishing was free, and the populations of sea turtles have declined dramatically. Over 30 years, sea turtle conservation programme has obtained some successes as follows:

  • Already identified and preserved 18 spawning grounds of sea turtles
  • 6 sea-turtle hatching ponds were established (total area c. 900 m²)
  • In 2020 recorded: c. 750 mother turtles laying eggs, 2,386 nests (230,637 eggs), successfully hatched 2,161 nests, released 172,281 baby turtles. 365 mother turtles were tagged for future monitoring.
  • Collaborate with Con Dao Resort Co., Ltd (Six Senses) to restore sea turtle spawning grounds in Dat Doc. In 2020, 45 nests and 3291 eggs were recorded and 2125 individual baby turtles will be released to the sea.
  • Since 2014, 17 times of volunteers have been organized, 10 days each (in 2020, 5 times), in total, 265 volunteers participated. Each year, the volunteers participate in writing about 20 articles, magazines, clips, and blogs on the communication of sea turtle conservation, contributing to raising public awareness.
  • Every year, the National Park organizes propaganda campaigns for local residents, students, and visitors to Con Dao about marine life conservation.

Story

Ha Do

When Ha Do, a Vietnamese British housewife, received an invitation to join the volunteer sea turtle conservation programme in Con Dao National Park. Despite having many years working in biodiversity conservation in Vietnam before resettled in UK, Con Dao still brings Ha many interesting surprises. After a week of living with rangers in Hon Bay Canh, participating in sea cleaning and sea turtle rescue activities, Ha and her team truly immersed themselves in the lives of people who make every effort to maintain the largest nesting sea turtle populations in Vietnam.

 

Around Con Dao, Ha and other volunteers learned that sea turtles are still seriously threatened by human activities: including the risk of death from economic activities and the illegal hunting, and especially turtle eggs sold to restaurants. They appreciated the hard work of the park rangers and staff who are working hard every day to keep Con Dao as the most favourable home for sea turtles in Vietnam.

 

The marine turtle conservation programme in Con Dao began in the mid-1980s, when the Forbidden Forest of Con Dao was newly established. With initial groping, protected area staff sought to help protect and hatch the first batch of sea turtles and put on self-made tags to try to track the frequency of female sea turtles back to their breeding grounds. These efforts have since received the attention and support of international conservation organizations, especially WWF and IUCN. The park's scientific staff have been trained, and hatcheries that are more professional have been built in the breeding grounds. Every year, hundreds of sea turtles come to breed in Con Dao, tens of thousands of eggs are hatched in turtle lakes, and tens of thousands of baby turtles are released to the sea. Since the mid-2010s, the sea turtle volunteer programs have attracted hundreds of volunteers. This activity not only contributes human resources to the sea turtle conservation program but also serves as an inspiration for communication activities to raise awareness about sea turtle conservation. In particular, Six Senses Resort (Vietnam Resort Co., Ltd.) has recently cooperated with the National Park to invest in the construction and maintenance of sea turtles spawning grounds on Dat Doc beach. This is an important start to the socialization of resources for biodiversity conservation.

Contributed by

Nguyen Duc Tu IUCN Vietnam