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
Through multi-stakeholder partnerships, it is hoped that conservation efforts to protect the endangered sea turtles population from extinction are continuing to bear fruit.
According to Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), there are seven species of sea turtles, five of which are found in Kenya’s coastline mainly known as the Green Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle, Loggerhead Turtle, Olive Ridleys Turtle, and Leatherback Turtle these five species are on the list of the endangered.
Kenya Wildlife Service said the green turtles usually nest along Kenya’s coastline and are among the most exploited species, leading to a drastic decline in their population.
Dr. Mohamed Omar, Head of Marine and Conservation at Wildlife Research and Training Institute said 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.
“Turtles have been integrated with coastal people traditions, for a long time have been used as food and there are beliefs that turtles cure asthma and improve health. Those have been used as an excuse to catch them,” said Dr Omar.
According to Dr. Omar, the release of green sea turtle hatchlings 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. Turtles migrate as far as Mozambique and Mauritius and if their habitat is destroyed they won’t be able to hatch,” explained Omar.
He also added that turtle conservation projects are a great way of protecting sea turtles and coastal ecosystems.
They have organized an international meeting next year in Mombasa to deliberate on issues affecting turtles as endangered species.
Speaking at Nyali Beach, Saidi Shee, Deputy Marine Park Warden, Mombasa said sensitization and awareness among communities has helped greatly in marine life conservation calling for proper waste management as one of the factors that will save marine life among sea turtles.
“We have been encouraging local communities to step up this initiative. We have also been involved in education and awareness among the youths and the communities are embracing this initiative which has seen 120 turtles released to the sea,” said Mr. Saidi.
However, turtles are facing many threats starting from rampant poaching in many parts, accidental bycatch, and pollution which affect many turtles due to eating plastics among many other reasons. People are encouraged to make sure they dispose of their garbage and marine debris responsibly.
Mr Abeid Mohamed, Honorary Warden and Head of a Community Based Organization Early Bird Banda is spearheading the conservation efforts in the Nyali beach area and acknowledged the community for their support in shunning traditional beliefs and cultures that were endangering turtles
Mohamed revealed that over 1,000 hatchlings have been released to the sea from March this year due to an informed community whereby when Mombasa residents got wind of the release they were there to witness the exercise.