Abandoned logs on the beaches of Gabon are keeping leatherback turtles from nesting, according to a new study in Biological Conservation.

Exporting logs used to be big business in Gabon. As people moved the timber down rivers, many of the logs slipped loose and ended up on beaches, where they often trapped sea turtles. But in 2010, log exports from Gabon were banned.

The ban doesn’t seem to have improved the turtles’ situation. The researchers conducted aerial surveys of the area in 2003, 2007, and 2011 and found that the number of logs hasn’t dropped: It went from 15,160 to 13,528 and back up to 17,262.

Observations of leatherback turtles in Pongara National Park from 2006 to 2011 suggest that logs blocked 17 percent of the animals’ movements. The problem “is persistent and has the potential to remain so, unless remedial action to remove beached timber is taken,” the authors write. Roberta Kwok | 10 May 2013

Source: Pikesley, S.K. et al. 2013. Here today, here tomorrow: Beached timber in Gabon, a persistent threat to nesting sea turtles. Biological Conservation doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2012.11.002.

Image © IrinaK |