British bases environmental experts have called on the public to be vigilant when using beaches within the Sovereign Base Areas (SBA) as they look to safeguard 107 recorded turtle nests so far, they said on Friday.

The endangered green and loggerhead turtles lay eggs on beaches within the bases but as summer season reaches its peak, “the danger to those nests becomes ever-more apparent”.

“With tens of thousands of tourists and local beachgoers lining the seashore”, the bases’ administration senior environment officer, Alexia Perdiou, said it was imperative that the nesting grounds were not disturbed. 

“The first female turtles began laying their eggs at the beginning of May and the environment department co-ordinates turtle conservation work, focusing on minimum intervention and by following international best practices, mirroring the work undertaken in the rest of Cyprus,” she said.

“Once turtle nests are identified they are demarcated with a protective aluminium cage, with a ring placed around the cage buried in the sand to prevent other animals from disturbing the nests. Hatchlings are then left on their own to emerge naturally from nests and make their way to the sea.”

The public have been urged to be aware of turtle nests

The disturbance of nests by humans is punishable with up to €17,000 in fines or up to three years imprisonment, a proven deterrent according to Perdiou.

“The SBA authorities will be undertaking robust enforcement action throughout the nesting season, ending in October, to prevent and report damaging activities,’’ Perdiou added.

The British bases work closely with non-governmental organisations and Republic of Cyprus authorities to implement protection measures, including restricting vehicle access, using surveillance cameras and erecting information boards to raise awareness on the importance of the areas.

Perdiou also highlighted education and cooperation as a key protection measure: “The Akrotiri Environmental Education Centre continue to deliver turtle awareness programmes to hundreds of school children every year and the sustainable management of important species and habitats can only be achieved through joint work and partnerships of the competent and local authorities and the people using these sensitive areas,” she said.