In the Seychelles, conservation efforts are paying off for the endangered green turtle

A green turtle on the Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles.
(Image credit: Gilles Martin/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

There is a welcome and wonderful sight appearing on beaches in the Seychelles.

The endangered green turtle is making a comeback here, after several decades of protection and close monitoring. Turtle hunting was banned in the Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands off the coast of East Africa, in 1968, but it was a slow recovery. In the early 1980s, researchers would find just one or two turtle tracks on a beach, but by the mid-1990s, there would be 10 to 20.

It's only been up from there. This month, a new study was published in Endangered Species Research about the Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles. Researchers found that in the late 1960s, the annual number of green turtle clutches was in the 2,000 to 3,000 range, and that increased to more than 15,000 in the late 2010s.

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"There's potential for this population to double, triple, we're not even sure," lead author Adam Pritchard from the University of Exeter told Popular Science. "This could just be the start. It's amazing that, after slower growth in the beginning, there's been this real explosion in recent years."

The Aldabra Atoll has one of the world's largest green turtle populations, and in addition to the hunting ban, the fact that the area was designated a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1982 has helped the species with its recovery. It takes at least 20 to 50 years for green turtles to reach sexual maturity and start reproducing, making long-term monitoring another important step in ensuring the population continues to grow.

Over the last five decades, hundreds of people have been recording data on the green turtles, collecting information from more than 50 beaches across Aldabra. "One thing that people have learned is protection works," Jeanne Mortimer, founder and chair of Turtle Action Group Seychelles, told Popular Science. "But you may need to be patient and wait for 35 years."

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.