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Discovery of a regular nesting area of loggerhead turtle Caretta caretta in southern Italy: a new perspective for national conservation

Mingozzi, Toni, Masciari, Giampiero, Paolillo, Giuseppe, Pisani, Brunella, Russo, Manuela, Massolo, Alessandro
Biodiversity and conservation 2007 v.16 no.12 pp. 3519-3541
Caretta caretta, coasts, islands, monitoring, mortality, nesting, nests, nitrogen content, surveys, Italy
Loggerhead turtle Caretta caretta nesting in Italy had been reported to be limited to the Pelagian Islands and only sporadically elsewhere. As presence of loggerhead turtle nests had occasionally been reported (1988-1999) along about 200 km of the Ionian coast of Calabria, we carried out a project to assess the actual state of the nesting population between 2000 and 2004. We divided the coastline in two sectors (A: 52 km, and B: 146 km) that were monitored from mid-June to end of July for a total of n = 174 monitoring days and 1,813.6 km patrolled on foot with different intensities (extensive versus intensive). In sector B, through extensive monitoring we did not find any emergence tracks, but in sector A by intensive survey (2002-2004: one survey/3.64 days) we detected 3-8 nests/year. In total, 25 nests (both observed and reported), were recorded in our study area, and an assessment of a total of 15-16 nests/year was suggested. These figures, within the national scenario depicted from the review of known nesting events in the last 40 years (88 records concerning more than 143-144 nests), show that loggerhead turtle nesting has been underestimated in Italy, due to inadequate monitoring protocols, and that nesting is more frequent than expected (at least 30-40 nests/year). Conservation strategies in Italy should then focus not only on the reduction of mortality at sea, but also include large-scale actions to preserve scattered (but regular) nesting events.