Local Community Assists Sea Turtle Conservation

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The results of KWS’s November 1994 comprehensive aerial survey of sea mammals, sharkd and turtles have been used to formulate action plans for the conservation of various marine creatures including an increasingly rare sea mammal, the dugong, and the sea turtle. Watamu Marine National Park supports a relatively high population of turtles in comparison to Mombasa, Malindi and Diani. The turtle’s habit of laying eggs on land in unguarded nests makes both eggs and hatchings vulnerable to poaching and disturbance. The commercial value of the turtles’ eggs, shells and flipper skins as food, medicine and ornaments and the general popularity of their meat and oil makes them highly endangered. KWS, the Fisheries Department, the Coast Development Authority, the Baobab Trust and other interested parties formulated a turtle conservation project to sensitize local communities. Under this programme, local residents, especially fishermen, are asked to report and safeguard any nests they come across. An incentive scheme provides the person or group who reports a nest and protects it until the hatchlings return to the sea with a small financial reward.

In Mombasa and Diani the scheme has been enlarged to involve tourists and visitors. In these
areas, where disturbance is a threat, eggs are removed from their nests under KWS
supervision and taken to hatcheries at Baobab Farm, the Indian Ocean Beach Club or the Serena Beach Hotel.

As soon as the hatchlings are three or four days old and their still-soft shells about two inches in diameter, the young turtles are taken to a local hotel. Guests are then invited to donate money to support the turtle project. Each donor is entitled to take part in a release ceremony on the beach to safely launch the tiny but vigorous turtles on their journey to the sea. The revenue raised by the release programme is managed by a committee and used to
support monitoring and research and to fund the incentive programme.

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