Green turtles are herbivores that travel long distances between their feeding ground and hatching beaches. Just like other turtles, they are attracted to clean beaches when preparing to lay their eggs. Their search for a suitable hitching spot leads them to human settlements, where they are vulnerable to poachers. The poachers know how to target these spots and manage to smuggle both the turtles and their eggs.
This has led to a drastic decrease in their populations, hence ending up in the endangered species list. This means that if nothing is done to curb their poaching, they will get extinct.
Fazeela and Tiju are wildlife volunteers who have been working in Tsavo, Lamu as well as Mombasa. They have been working in protecting buffaloes, hippopotamus, and turtles. In Lamu, they were successful in helping the local community embrace the importance of hippos. This resolved the existing bad blood between the hippos and the community. The hippos had frequently destroyed farms within the community. Now they co-exist peacefully with the community protecting their hippos.
Unfortunately, in Mombasa, approximately 2 turtles lose their lives to poaching on a daily basis in order to satisfy the demand for their meat and shell at the black market. Since the green turtles build their nests near human settlements, they are easily spotted by the poachers. They can also be found in hundreds near the Mombasa Marine Park. This, however, should not fool you that they have numbers. They don’t, and they need to be protected. The nests need to be relocated to safer places. This is done by the trained personnel. The foot patrols help to record the green turtle nests, any poaching activities and noting places that need to be cleaned up.
By teaming up with the Kenya Wildlife Service, the community has been offered important insights in curbing green turtle poaching. It was evident that the community knew very little about the green turtles. The community can now alert the KWS rangers of any poaching activities as well as identify the meeting areas and record the same for monitoring purposes. They have been a great help to the green turtles.
Apart from poaching, plastic pollution, habitat destruction, poor waste management and use of wrong fishing gears are some of the threats facing the turtles. They end up trapping their heads in plastic bags, consequently suffocating to death. Those that consume plastics eventually die since plastics cannot be digested. The straws ending up in their nostrils, they also end up in fishing nets, where they get trapped and are sold to the poachers. Moreover, they get hurt by the fishing hooks during fishing.
Challenges facing Curbing of Green Turtle Poaching
Inadequate awareness among the local communities:
A big number of turtles interact with humans in their settlements, making them easy targets. Those who are yet to be sensitized about them will not offer help when poaching is in progress. There’s still need to ensure the local community is educated about protecting their heritage.
Weak law enforcement:
The poachers may be arrested, but still, have a way to escape punishment once the issue is handed over to the courts. We are yet to see a strong ruling against poaching of wildlife in our courts.
Inadequate funds and resources:
The community scouts and volunteers have to dig deep into their pockets so as to successfully help in these conservation efforts. There’s need for fuel for boat patrol, transportation of volunteers to the places that need cleaning, monitoring of the nests, among other needs.
Fazeela and Tiju have a campaign link that you can follow and donate to the good cause here