With funding from Medina Palms, Born Free Kenya supported Watamu Turtle Watch (WTW) based in Eastern Kenya. The aim of the programme was to protect a small but important nesting population of sea turtles in the Watamu/Malindi Marine Parks and Reserves.
Through a nest protection program, which works in co-operation with local people & Kenya Wildlife Service to protect all nests laid on Watamu and Malindi beaches, local participation is encouraged with a financial incentive scheme. Daily patrols check for nesting turtles, and tracks in the sand that indicate new nests. Nesting turtles that are encountered are tagged and biometric data collected. Schedules are continuously organised to protect and monitor incubating and hatching nests. Nests are allowed to incubate in situ unless they have been laid in an area threatened by sea wash, in which case they are carefully relocated to a safe area. Research is also carried out on hatching success and DNA material is collected from the nesting population.
Watamu Turtle Watch report on the activities for 2011:
In 2011, WTW safely monitored and protected 51 nests in Watamu, the same number as in 2010. We watched 3,469 hatchlings make it into the sea. As WTW explains, “It remains a terrifying fact that only 3 of these are predicted to make it to adulthood, but fantastic to know they will return to Watamu beach in over 10 years’ time to lay their own nests…. We hope!”
May was the busiest month for nesting in Watamu, but a turtle came to nest in December which is quite unusual. In 14 years the project has only ever observed 13 previous nests at this time of year and it is suspect that this is the same female. 2 Olive Ridley nests were observed in 2011 - inn 14 years only 12 other Olive Ridley nests were seen.
BY CATCH RELEASE PROGRAMME
In 2011 WTW had discovered and released 1,365 turtles after being caught in fishing nets. We tagged 544 of these turtles; the remaining turtles were either re-captures, admitted to rehab or were too young to be tagged.
35 patients were treated in rehab in 2011; 28 green turtles, 6 hawksbill turtles and one Olive Ridley. 31% were admitted due to an infection, 17% due to damage from fishing hooks, 14% were due to poaching , 11% due to blockage from plastic, the remaining 27% was a combination of other factors.
The majority of these turtles were accidently caught by fishermen in Midas Creek – a reminder to everyone to enforce protection of our Creek to protect the turtles’ habitat.
WTW’s education programme reached over 2,064 students and 156 teachers in 2011. We covered information on three topics: turtles, corals and mangroves. We have worked with 26 local schools but plan to expand to 30 in 2012 due to the keen interest in the area.
We have seen a great change of attitude towards conservation from many of the students. One child told us that her father used to poach turtle meat but now he calls Local Ocean Trust if he catches a turtle in his net.
The Marine Scout programme has gone from strength to strength in 2011. We currently have 7 marine scouts who have all been awarded their certificate in “Basics in turtle welfare and care”.
WTW’s community programmes continue to “quietly make a difference”. WTW continues to support alternative income generating programmes to reduce the strain on Kenya’s marine resources. Beach clean-ups and “Love your local ocean” campaigns continue in every corner of Watamu and around.
Sadly the ring netters (a type of fishing method) have continued to threaten the sustainability of our marine life; WTW hope systems are put into place for 2012 to prevent the damage witnessed in 2011. Destruction has been seen on our beaches with an increase in riparian developments and beach interference threatening our precious turtle nesting sites.
WTW would like to thank all of our supporters and donors for 2011, for everything they have helped us to achieve.
WTW reminds everyone that one person can make a difference.