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Indian Ocean tortoise at Seychelles Aldabra atoll endangered by plastic pollution

Written by Alain St.Ange

Seychelles Aldabra atoll tortoises are being affected by eating plastic debris. One tortoise was found with half a flip-flop in its pile of dung.

A huge plastic clean-up operation is being organized on one of the most important turtle nesting islands in the Indian Ocean.

The isolated Aldabra atoll, 390 miles off the coast of Africa, is strewn with plastic that has been swept long distances by ocean currents.

Around 5,000 endangered green turtles nest on beaches around the coral atoll, an outlying island of the Seychelles and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

But the animals are being entangled in nylon fishing ropes, and the hatchlings can struggle to reach the sea because of debris on the sand.

A team from the Seychelles Islands Foundation and Queen’s College, Oxford University will attempt to clear around 50 tons of plastic from the key nesting sites in a month-long expedition.

Sky News will film the operation for its ground-breaking Deep Ocean Live programs to be broadcast in March.

April Burt, a PhD student at Queen’s College, is helping to coordinate the clean-up.

She told Sky News: “It makes it harder for the turtles.

“It can deter them from coming on the beaches which they have been coming all their lives. They then expend more energy when they are trying to flick out big bits of trash from where they want to nest.

“And then when the hatchlings come out they are having to get through all this trash before they even get to the sea.”

Rough calculations suggest there could be 1,000 tons of plastic across Aldabra.

Analysis shows a high proportion by weight is fishing gear, likely from industrial tuna fishing in the Indian Ocean.

But there is also a huge amount of consumer plastic, mostly flip-flops, cigarette lighters and bottles.

The island’s 150,000 giant tortoises are eating the debris. Scientists even found half a flip-flop in a pile of dung.

Jeremy Raguain, a project officer with the Seychelles Islands Foundation, said: “It’s cataclysmically ironic that a place that is so far and so protected still gets affected by this kind of stuff.

“It’s everyday items that we have all used and you can look at the items and ask, ‘how does it end up here, why here?'”

The Oxford team has begun preliminary analysis of ocean currents to try to identify possible sources for the plastic.

Helen Johnson, an oceanographer at Oxford University, said the models have so far gone two years.

“The work we have done so far suggest the plastic is coming from the east coast of Africa,” she said.

“It is being swept off shore, out into the Indian Ocean then south before heading west towards Aldabra.”

A secondary source appears to be India and Sri Lanka, 2,700 miles away.

As the scientists finesse the models and run them back for longer periods, it’s possible that they could identify plastic being swept across the width of the Indian Ocean from Indonesia, one of the biggest sources of ocean plastic pollution.

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About the author

Alain St.Ange

Alain St Ange has been working in the tourism business since 2009. He was appointed as the Director of Marketing for Seychelles by President and Minister of Tourism James Michel.

He was appointed as the Director of Marketing for Seychelles by President and Minister of Tourism James Michel. After one year of

After one year of service, he was promoted to the position of CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board.

In 2012 the Indian Ocean Vanilla Islands regional Organization was formed and St Ange was appointed as the first president of the organization.

In a 2012 cabinet re-shuffle, St Ange was appointed as Minister of Tourism and Culture which he resigned on 28 December 2016 in order to pursue a candidacy as Secretary General of the World Tourism Organisation.

At the UNWTO General Assembly in Chengdu in China, a person who was being sought after for the “Speakers Circuit” for tourism and sustainable development was Alain St.Ange.

St.Ange is the former Seychelles Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine who left office in December last year to run for the position of Secretary General of the UNWTO. When his candidature or document of endorsement was withdrawn by his country just a day before the elections in Madrid, Alain St.Ange showed his greatness as a speaker when he addressed the UNWTO gathering with grace, passion, and style.

His moving speech was recorded as the one on the best marking speeches at this UN international body.

African countries often remember his Uganda address for the East Africa Tourism Platform when he was a guest of honor.

As former Tourism Minister, St.Ange was a regular and popular speaker and was often seen addressing forums and conferences on behalf of his country. His ability to speak ‘off the cuff’ was always seen as a rare ability. He often said he speaks from the heart.

In Seychelles he is remembered for a marking address at the official opening of the island’s Carnaval International de Victoria when he reiterated the words of John Lennon famous song… ” you may say I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one. One day you will all join us and the world will be better as one”. The world press contingent gathered in Seychelles on the day ran with the words by St.Ange which made headlines everywhere.

St.Ange delivered the keynote address for the “Tourism & Business Conference in Canada”

Seychelles is a good example for sustainable tourism. This is therefore not surprising to see Alain St.Ange being sought after as a speaker on the international circuit.

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