The largest hawksbill turtle (Erechmotelys imbricata) population remaining in the Western Indian Ocean occurs in Seychelles. However, populations have declined due to widespread harvesting of nesting females during the 30 years prior to 1994, when a total legal ban on turtle harvest was implemented. An exception to the downward trend is the population at Cousin Island Special Reserve, managed by Nature Seychelles.
Turtle monitoring has been in operation on Cousin since 1972. Turtle monitoring forms a core part of the Cousin work programs during the nesting season. Records of dates and locations are kept as nesting beaches are patrolled several times a day during daylight.
Tagging has been carried out since 1973. Wardens on Cousin apply metal tags bearing a unique identification code to the trailing edge of both front flippers of each nesting turtle encountered during beach patrols. This long-running activity has allowed Cousin to identify individual females as they return to the beaches to nest season after season.