Green Turtle Babies are Booming in Kenya!
Kenya's beaches are nesting sites for a variety of different turtles — including green turtles which are classified as endangered, listed on the Red List of Threatened Species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
However, the tide might have turned as Conservationists report an increase of green turtle hatchlings on the country's southern coastlines.
A Local Turtle Protection Initiative
On the beachfront of an empty hotel at Tiwi Beach on Kenya's south coast — three months after a female green turtle came ashore to lay 102 eggs near this spot, the emerging newborn turtles have their own personal bodyguards who have been watching the nest since the eggs were buried.
It appears that their careful monitoring will increase the hatchlings' chances of survival and might just be one reason for the nation’s hatchling boom.
Swalehe Mkambe, who is a local fisherman and member of the Tiwi Turtle Police is ecstatic about the results of their efforts.
"I love this, because before we started doing this, these turtles used to be eaten. I was not happy about that, because these turtles attract many other fish, and people come to see them. They come here from all over the world to see them."
The Tiwi Turtle Police is a local organisation started by the Coconut Lodge beach hotel owner. It's run in cooperation with the Kenya Wildlife Service, Prowin Pro Nature and the local fishing community, who patrol 12 kilometres of the coastline — picking up garbage and monitor nests.
Saving Turtles Pays During a Pandemic
Volunteer work that has seen them through the challenges and thought times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic this year.
Swalehe Mkambe is grateful for the meaningful work that has also been financially rewarding.
"The turtle programme is helping us and we're getting some income. When we are on duty, even if we go out to the sea for two days, we know that we will receive some income later. We can then at least use that to take care of our children."
The COVID-19 health crisis has left the beach with few visitors this year. Bad for the economy but great for the turtles, according to the volunteers who claim that humans are their biggest threat.
Mkambe and colleague Shaaban Salim have both received additional turtle ecology training and are sharing that knowledge with their communities.
A Forward-Moving Community at a Beach Paradise
Salim, who is also a local fisherman and a member of the Tiwi Turtle Police, outlines his observations.
"I have seen a lot of benefits because since 2019 to date we have not heard any report of anyone consuming turtles or of anyone killing turtles or of anyone injuring turtles. So the number of turtles that are dying has gone down, and people have begun to understand them, even outside the ocean."
A short distance — albeit a dangerous one fraught with threats such as litter pollution and predators, separates the baby turtles from the ocean.
Fortunately for Kenya's green turtle population, the dedicated work of the Tiwi Turtle Police gives the hatchlings a better chance of survival.