The partner relationship between GVI and Msambweni Turtle and Marine Conservation Group continues to grow through 2011, this week with a visit from the intern team to discuss current activities of the group and their personal experiences with sea turtle conservation. We were joined by Douglas, from KESCOM who gave a presentation about turtle conservation in Kenya, including maps and data on the key threats facing sea turtles up and down the Kenyan coast.
The community group and GVI interns take in the view of Msambweni Beach
Excitingly MTMCG are starting the construction of bandas (cabins) to provide accommodation for their eco-tourism project, helping to generate income for the ongoing voluntary activities carried out by the group, such as beach patrols to check for turtle nests and prevent poaching.
So far this year MTMCG have had no turtles nesting visit their beach, which is unusual but with the peak of nesting expected through June and July we will keep checking in. The members of the group believe the bright lighting put up by hotels in the area is reducing the appeal/ desirability of the nesting beach and are campaigning to get this removed. Another key task of the group is to provide a safe location for nests relocated from other areas – quite recently GVI members were lucky enough to spot a huge female Green Turtle make her way up Diani beach to choose a nesting site – in the end she decided not to lay her eggs there, but if she had Msambweni would have been ready to move the nest to a safer location.
KESCOM present information about their conservation work throughout Kenya
GVI will give continued support and training to such dedicated conservation groups, who are so vital in protecting the important species and habitats in Kenya.
On Friday a good friend of GVI Kenya popped in for a visit to our base to give a presentation on the work carried out by KESCOM, their aims and methods and how our partnership has developed over the years. Douglas Maina is a dedicated Kenyan conservationist who I have known professionally through GVI’s involvement in turtle conservation for over a year now and his talk was both inspiring and interesting, received well by staff and volunteers alike.
KESCOM visit GVI base for educational presentation
For people taking part in the marine programme with GVI, the work of other conservation organisations over Kenya may not always be clear, but by inviting Douglas in to explain the grass roots efforts they are making to protect all turtle species on the coast this became apparent very quickly. We learnt about the local community groups set up by KESCOM who work on activities such as beach clean ups, anti-poaching patrols, clean ups, tagging and nest monitoring. We also learnt about the efforts being made in government to implement strategies to promote turtle conservation, including a management plan going into action in the first week of February. Thanks to partners such as KESCOM, we can see real changes being made to help conserve the fantastic natural resources Kenya is fortunate to have.
Friday the 27th of November celebrated the Muslim holiday Ede. The Mkwiro villagers were busy all day cooking feasts with their families, and to join in the fun we decided to dedicate our day to cleaning up their beautiful mangroves. Mangroves are home to many critters and we spent much of our clean-up avoiding crab holes and watching the crabs scurry out of our way. We spent about two hours cleaning up garbage and debris that has accumulated over many years on the beach. At high tide the water reaches up high enough to carry this garbage back out to sea and so it is important to keep it as clean as possible. In the future, the villagers will participate in the clean-ups and learn the importance of protecting their beaches. After seeing the amount of garbage we collected in just a small area in a short time I think it will occur to them how much is actually littered. Hopefully it will come as a shock and they will want to change their habits.
Beach clean up
Two hours in the hot sun was hard work, but it was very rewarding to know we were directly affecting the environment. Among the trash was some pretty neat stuff too! I found a shipwreck emergency packet of drinking water from a Chinese ship and there were plastic bottles that would crumple at your touch, they must have been decades old. The trash we found can be burned, and the glass can be recycled. Mohammed, a man in the village, uses flip flops for jewellery and so we donated the ones we found to his workshop!
Marine team in the mangroves
I look forward to doing more clean-ups with the community involved and passing on the awareness of the environment. If only twelve of us participated in the beach clean-up and left with over 15 bags full of trash, old flip flops and glass bottles, imagine what the community could do. A little bit will certainly go a long way.
Sarah Watson collecting flip flops and water bottles