Renewed efforts by sea turtle conservationists in the conservation of the endangered species along the Kenyan coastline appear to be paying off as communities embrace turtle protection.
Through multi-stakeholder partnerships, it is hoped that conservation efforts to protect the endangered sea turtles population from being extinct will continue to bear fruit.
According to Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), there are seven species of sea turtles, five of which are found in Kenya’s coastlines. They include the green Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle, Loggerhead Turtle, Olive Ridleys Turtle, and the Leatherback Turtle which remains endangered.
Dr. Mohamed Omar, Head of Marine and Conservation at Wildlife Research and Training Institute say the turtles are protected by the wildlife Act and Kenya has signed a treaty with other African countries that spearheads the protection and conservation of turtles.
Marine experts have hailed efforts undertaken by stakeholders in marine ecosystem conservation after the release of over 100 endangered green sea turtle hatchlings from their nesting sites to the ocean at Nyali Beach in Mombasa County.
KWS says the green turtles usually nest along Kenya’s coastline and are among the most exploited species, leading to a drastic decline in their population.
“Turtles have been integrated with coastal people traditions, for a long time has been used as food. They believe that turtles cure asthma and improve health. Those have been used as an excuse to catch them,” said Dr. Omar.
The released green sea turtle hatchlings, Dr. Omar said will migrate to as far as Mauritius and return after 25 years to hatch thus their habitats shouldn’t be interfered with through human activities.
“This beach should not be fenced or have too many lights. There is an urgent need to protect our beaches to preserve the existence of turtles,” said Dr. Omar. “
He added that turtle conservation projects are a great way of protecting sea turtles and coastal ecosystems. Dr. Omar disclosed that there will be an international meeting next year in Mombasa to deliberate on issues affecting turtles as endangered species.
According to Saidi Shee a Deputy Marine Park Warden, sensitization and awareness among communities has helped greatly in marine life conservation.
“We have been encouraging local communities to step up this initiative and we have also been involved in education and awareness among the youths. The communities are embracing this initiative,” said Shee adding that 120 turtles were released to the sea.
Abeid Mohamed, Honorary Warden and Head of a Community Based Organization; Early Bird Banda is spearheading the conservation efforts in the Nyali beach area for the turtles.
Mohamed revealed that over 1,000 hatchlings have been released to the sea from March this year as a result of an informed community.
In December last year, the ministry of Tourism Wildlife, and Heritage launched the Sea Turtle Conservation Protocol in Kenya to serve as a guide in sea Turtle conservation activities.