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Book review: Between the Tides

Between the Tides: In Search of Sea Turtles

By George Hughes |(Jacana, R195)

This book reflects a lifetime’s work and a dedication by George Hughes to the understanding and study of sea turtles.

The plight of this ancient marine reptile has been exposed by dedicated people such as Hughes, his KwaZulu-Natal Parks Board colleagues and fellow researchers.

After millions of years of the turtle’s survival, humans, the apex predators, have successfully wiped out complete colonies of these animals and their nesting sites all over the world due to excessive exploitation. South Africa has played a significant role in documenting existing nesting sites of the loggerhead and leatherback species that occur around our coast.

Hughes has also spent much time studying and discovering other sites on many islands in the south-eastern Indian Ocean.

New methods of tagging turtles for research were developed through his work by trial and error, resulting in more reliable ways of recording females returning to nesting sites. A firm believer in sustainable utilisation of resources, he has worked with many foreign countries to develop ways to preserve their nesting sites, even creating protected areas, and to initiate ecotourism.

Hughes has a BSc (Hons) in Zoology and was chief executive officer of the Natal Parks Board and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. Hughes has spent five decades researching sea turtles and has received international recognition from conservation bodies, NGOs and conference delegations.

Travelling into Mozambique during a civil war takes some courage and dedication.

Hughes was responsible for much of the early research and recording of historical information gleaned from fishermen and tribesmen.

He spent weeks alone on small islands, recording turtle nesting activities, tagging the females and fighting off the resident alien rat populations.

The book is also a “work biography” and tells of his adventures throughout his career, which makes for enjoyable reading. – Ed Lemke

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