The African division of the Turtle Survival Alliance has been created and is based in Senegal, a small country in West Africa. The chairman of the group is Tomas Diagne, an agronomist who is also member of IUCN/TFTSG. TSA Africa’s main objective is the study and conservation of land tortoises and freshwater turtles and their natural habitats in Africa.
The office of TSA Africa is composed of two vice-presidents and 11 members, who are regional advisers or nationals of almost all the areas of this vast continent, which has a surface area of 30 million square kilometers. Africa is the second largest continent in the world and accounts for 50 species of land tortoises and freshwater turtles in four families.
To achieve these goals, TSA Africa hopes initially to rely on the support of the capacities of its members, partners and other participants. The production and dissemination of identification and evaluation handbooks (in three languages: French, English and Portuguese) for the known African species has already begun.
In October and November 2008, the author conducted an assessment of the presence of the tortoises and freshwater turtles throughout Ghana, Togo, and Benin, three Western African countries. The results of this work made it possible to confirm the presence of four species of land tortoises (Kinixys erosa, Kinixys belliana, Kinixys homeana and Geochelone sulcata) and seven species of freshwater turtles (Pelomedusa subrufa, Pelusios castaneus, Pelusios adansonii, Pelusios niger, Cyclanorbis elegans, Cyclanorbis senegalensis and Trionyx tringuis). Rarest of all the species identified in this zone of West Africa is undoubtedly Cyclanorbis elegans, the Giant Nubian softshell turtle, which requires urgent measures of conservation and restoration of its natural habitat.
It is also priority to carry out a comprehensive assessment which will allow a correct classification of the African species of tortoises and freshwater turtles on the IUCN Red List species.
The next meeting of the TSA Africa members will be organized soon, to be held in Nigeria with the collaboration of the IUCN/TFTSG group. At this meeting it is envisaged to develop an action plan to be carried out the over next several years and to identify the priority species and habitats to preserve.