Turtle sightings and populations in Kenya have over years diminished owing to increased cases of poaching, reduced nesting activities and increase of high tides due to climate change. The sharp decline in turtle populations is also attributed to low levels of local community awareness.
In Ukunda, South Coast of Kenya, a 17 year old Maisha Madrugar is leading a local community in turtle conservation. To safeguard turtle eggs and hatchlings from poachers, predators, and high-tides, Maisha has recruited rangers from the fisher community who patrol the 12 KM Tiwi beach, a major spot where turtles lay eggs in large numbers.
The rangers also analyze from their indigenous experience the expected levels of high tides to determine whether the nests are in safe distance to prevent them from being washed-off. Where the nests are within high-tide area or vulnerable to predators and poachers or the turtles have laid eggs in public places such as camps, they transfer the eggs to a safer location to hatch.
The egg rescue must be done within 12 hours to preserve viability. The ranger transfer the eggs to Coconut Beach Resort where they have dug holes in the sand and set-up the right conditions for the eggs to hatch. Forty-forty-five days later the eggs have hatched. The rangers transfer the hatchlings to the sea. According to Maisha, in 2020 they saved 5000 turtles in enormously boosted survival rates of turtle nests whose prevailing average rate of survival is 1-2% according to experts.
“Turtles are an indicative specie, when seas have turtles, it means the seas are healthy, without them , the whole ecosystem can break down ” says Douglas Maina, project coordinator at Kenya Sea Turtle Conservation and Management Trust (Kescom), an organization that has pooled together community based organizations in efforts towards turtle conservation