Turtles in Congo threatened by rising waters and new port

Many baby turtles on the beach walking to the sea, animal news
Christian Ndombe, a park ranger, releases turtles on the endangered coastline, Democratic Republic of Congo, February 6, 2022, photo: Reuters/Justin Makangara

Rising sea levels and erosion have destroyed almost a quarter of sea turtles’ nesting grounds, park rangers from the Democratic Republic of Congo estimate. And now, the construction of a new port will further destroy the nesting areas of turtles.

Every year, Christian Ndombe and other park rangers look for turtle nests on Congo’s beaches. They bring the eggs to a hatching center in Muanda, where they are incubated for eight weeks. The newly-born turtles are released back on the beaches.

“So with this method, it increases the number of turtles on the beach,” Ndombe said after releasing hundreds of freshly-hatched turtles onto the beach. He added that they hope the baby turtles will “come back again as soon as they are adults to lay their eggs on our beach.”

But rising sea levels and the resulting erosion have made beaches smaller, with less space for turtles to lay their eggs.

And a new threat is emerging with the construction of Banana port, a new deep-water port in Congo. By 2025, Banana Port will be able to handle almost half a million containers per year, according to the project’s developer, Dubai’s port giant DP World.

Rangers worry the port will further destroy the dry sandy spaces above the tide-line where turtles dig their nests.

Mangroves National Park
Banana Port will border Congo’s Mangroves National Park, a nature reserve with various vulnerable and endangered plant and animal species, like turtles, manatees and mudskippers.

It’s unclear how much of the mangrove forest will be cut down for the port or the impact of super-tanker traffic because DP World has not published its environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA).

The Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN), the government agency that manages Congo’s national parks, said the developers had not properly consulted its park rangers.

“As far as I know, there is no study about environmental and social impact. We need to see these studies. Until now, we don’t have them,” Olivier Mushiete, the head of the ICCN, said.

Gabriel Bourdon-Fattal, project manager for the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF), said the construction project will almost certainly damage the area’s unique biodiversity in an ‘irreparable way’.

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