Updates from May 2014 for our Watamu Sea Turtle Volunteer Project

Posted by WorkingAbroad Projects on Monday, 19th May 2014

 Volunteer protecting a sea turtle nest in Watamu, KenyaNest Monitoring & Protection

Our nest monitoring & protection programme ensures the safety of nesting females, their nests and hatchlings in the Watamu area. Our teams patrol the beach up to 3 times per night and monitor the nests every day until the hatchlings emerge. We strive to be at each hatching to protect the hatchlings before they reach the ocean.

So far in 2014 we have had 12 nests laid, including a leatherback nest. Although leatherback turtles are frequently observed in Kenyan waters as part of their migration route, this is the first documented leatherback nesting in Watamu; possibly even Kenya! We have had 6 nests hatch this year, 1 of which was laid last year and from our data collection we can see 554 hatchlings emerged from the nests.

By-catch Net Release

The community of Watamu depends heavily on the ocean for their livelihoods, this makes the by-catch programme ever more important. The fishermen who know the importance of conserving endangered species, call us to rescue the turtles. We understand there will always be fishing and therefore a by-catch; however this programme helps to guarantee the protection of sea turtles and ensure they are released back into the ocean.

In 2013 we rescued 1330 sea turtles. So far this year we have released 314 sea turtles. Some of our old patients have also been recaptured this year, so we have been able to monitor the progress of our released rehab patients. 

Seaturtle heading out to sea in Watamu, KenyaRehabilitation Centre

Working alongside the by-catch programme, the rehabilitation centre cares for the sick and injured turtles casualties of the fishing gear used by our local fishermen or by natural causes. Sadly this year alone has shown an increased number of patients in comparison to previous years.

A critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle we named Penelope was admitted earlier this year. She had a very soft shell covered in huge barnacles. She spent well over a month with us feeding on prawns and mesmerizing the team with her character. She was released in March with us all hoping she does well back in the wild.

We also found Bootstrap, an olive ridley floating outside the Watamu marine park. She was covered in barnacles, hence the name. Although she is still in rehab with us and still floats we are trying a number of different ways to treat her condition by seeking advice from other rehab facilities worldwide.

Big Beautiful Belle, an endangered green turtle, was found on beached at Marareni. She had spent a number of hours in direct sun and was severely dehydrated. She also had healed wounds on her shell, a missing flipper and scrapes on her head and neck, which all point to an old boat propeller injury. Unfortunately she also floats and again we are seeking advice.

Finally we have had Nusura, meaning “escaped death” in Swahili. She was admitted to rehab after they had found her speared. She had to undergo surgery to remove a ruptured eye, but was extremely lucky the spear gun injury wasn’t fatal. We successfully released her in March and has since been caught in Mida Creek by a fisherman who rang us to release her. We were so glad to see her doing well.

So far this year we have successfully rehabilitated and released 17 sea turtles.

Conservation Education

Education is embedded in all of our activities and targets all users and non-users of the ocean. There are now 30 schools from the area in our Conservation Education programme. International schools, NGO’s, hotels, universities, tourists and individuals visit the project walkway and rehab for information and to learn about our Watamu. Since 2001 we have empowered our visitors with the knowledge to safe guard our environment, know our animals and our ocean. Recently we had a former student who is now a teacher bringing the children from her school for a visit.

So far in 2014 we have had 37 school visits with a total of 969 students in attendance. 

Community outreach & sea turtle education in Watamu, KenyaCommunity Outreach

21 community groups and 350 fishermen make up our Community Outreach Programme. They actively help us to meet our objectives of conserving our marine environment. Through the outreach programme we are able to highlight unsustainable issues and create more sustainable ways which benefit the community and the environment. As a result of this we now utilize locally available materials, mangrove restoration, beach clean-ups, sea turtle nesting awareness and campaign for responsible operations on our beaches.

 Throughout 2014 we have conducted 2 village and 1 beach clean ups. Our monthly meetings with the BMU United Group are still going strong.

Community outreach helps us to highlight the important issues such as the fishing of shark pups and use of ray fish oil. We discuss these issues with the local fishermen to help prevent these species becoming endangered.

We have also continued our First Aid refresher courses, with one held so far this year. This is an ongoing commitment from us and the first aiders are encouraged to assist in keeping the health of the entire community.


For more information on this project and getting involved as a sea turtle conservation volunter, please click here.

Author: WorkingAbroad Projects

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