SAVING THE SEA TURTLE
The Sea Turtle is on the brink of extinction unless urgent measures are put in place to protect it. WWF and partners are working round the clock to save the remnants of this ecologically and economically significant sea creature.
According to research by Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and WWF among others Kiunga Marine National Reserve harbours the highest number of the sea turtle along the entire Kenyan Coast.
Hashim Bwana-an Officer with WWF says that approximately 15000 nestlings are recorded every season in Kiunga compared to about 4000 nestlings recorded in Mafia-another productive area on the coast of East Africa. This productivity has been attributed to a strong partnership involving WWF, KWS and the local communities (Turtle Conservation Groups).
Sea turtles encounter numerous predators during their entire lives starting with humans who usually kill them believing their meat has medicinal value and poach their eggs. Then comes the by-catch, the birds, mongoose, porcupines and ghost crabs who seize the hatchlings as they make their way to the sea from the nests. The ones who manage to reach the sea have to fend off attacks from fish and ultimately the sharks even when they reach maturity.
“ The biggest problem for sea turtle conservation is poaching”, says Mike Olendo, WWF Kiunga project coordinator.
“People do not poach the sea turtle for business but for cultural significance. They believe its meat has healing powers and can exorcise evil spirits”, he says.
To counter this belief and encourage the local communities to conserve the turtle, WWF is encouraging resource ownership where community member see the benefit accruing from turtle conservation.
The local community is given incentives (usually monetary) for information leading to location of nests and related data.
Through its cash to trash initiative, WWF is linking women groups from the area to markets in Mombasa. The women use trash found on the beaches to make ornaments and curtains which they sell to enhance their income.
By Johnstone Mulary