By Fran Humber, Research Coordinator, Andavadoaka, Madagascar.
Over the last week in Andavadoaka there has only been one thing on our minds – turtles! A festival to raise awareness about marine turtles and their conservation in Velondriake has kicked off in Andavadoaka with two days of presentations, films, a pirogue race and, of course, our man-sized turtle mascot. The festival slogan ‘Fano Lany, Vezo Manegny’ (if turtles disappear, the Vezo will regret) aims to build upon the RARE social marketing campaign in 2010 which used the Vezo identity as a means to create a sense of marine resource ownership amongst Vezo communities within the Velondriake Marine Protected Area.
Former shark fisherman Thomas, BV’s resident turtle expert, has spearheaded the festival and has spent the last week spreading news over the radio and around Velondriake’s 24 villages. A lovingly handmade turtle costume from Toliara has also enthralled the children and piqued the interest of even some of the more guarded residents.
The highlight of the first day was a pirogue race that, after two changes of wind direction within an hour, eventually started from the south of Andavadoaka’s main beach. The winner hoisted his own personal flag to the top of his mast and sailed along the village coastline proclaiming his victory. A dance competition followed to keep the audience captivated until sunset and a presentation and film on turtles could be projected onto an outdoor screen in the village beneath the stars.
A children’s workshop started on the second day of festivities, in which Thomas managed the impossible – around seventy children sitting quietly intently listening to his messages on marine turtle biology and conservation – interrupted only by a simultaneous noise of ‘iieeeeee’ (yes) to show understanding by the children. A face painting frenzy followed with children adorned with multicoloured turtles.
The day ended with theatre, music and quizzes in the village. The crowd swayed and pushed with anticipation to see who could hold their breath longest in a bucket of water – a game to see who could be the best turtle. As darkness set in the quiz continued and the crowd stayed transfixed until the last question, “what do green and loggerhead turtles like to eat?” was answered correctly by a young child and the festival in Andavadoaka was officially over, bringing to an end 48 hours of discussion and celebration of Madagascar’s marine turtles.
Over the next 2 weeks the festival team will travel to another four villages in Velondriake to spread the conservation messages.
For more information about Blue Ventures’ marine turtle conservation work please:
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