Going out on the boat to survey marine life, we’ve encountered Green and Hawksbill turtles, Bottlenose and Humpback dolphins, and even a black tip reef shark while snorkelling out at Kisite. It has been fantastic to see so many pods of dolphins foraging nearby with calves and juveniles.
This week was, however, also marked by tragedy. While on dedicated search a volunteer spotted something bobbing in the distance, so we went to take a closer look. As we got nearer we saw that it was a turtle but it wasn’t acting at all normally. Usually turtles will swim just below the surface and will only pop their head out to take a breath before lowering back into the water. This one was limp, just floating along. Our captain confirmed it had died. Very recently.
After inspection, we were able to identify it as a Hawksbill Turtle with a 1m shell length. This species is critically endangered and it was heartbreaking to see that the cause of death was that it had tried to digest a plastic bag. Probably confusing a floating plastic bag for its usual choice of jellyfish was a deadly mistake for this unsuspecting turtle.
It really brings home the detrimental effect of pollution and littering on the environment, and if we were all to reduce our waste and pick up rubbish each day we could prevent tragedies like this. Since this sighting we have now seen another four dead turtles, both being mature green turtles – cause of death unknown. Dicussion amongst the group and with KESCOM have brought us to one possible conclusion – that the current season of Kaskazi, bringing rough seas is causing eratic boat movements and may be throwing turtles off course and increasing boat strikes.