Tag Archives: Funzi Island

The cry of the turtles

I recently attended a workshop on the impact of shoreline changes in Kenya and Tanzania. A study that had been carried out, revealed that in most places, a lot of land is gradually being lost with sea level rise. In beaches like Bamburi (north coast of Mombasa), landowners are putting up seawalls to ‘avert erosion’. Untouched beaches are fast dying out. What concerned me is the impact of this on marine life especially sea turtles. What used to be natural beaches, hence nesting sites, are now unrecognizable. With the walls come the lights, spelling doom to nesting seaturtles.

  Forest destruction to pave way for residential development in Funzi

Then one researcher mentioned that on the Kenyan south coast, Funzi Island provides a good example of what ‘exotic and untouched’ means. My heart sank! Funzi is currently invaded by scores of private developers, cutting down forests and buiding cottages! My friends Sergi and Nick of GVI (Shimoni) share my sorrow. When they visited Funzi, they could not believe the extent of destruction going on.

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That is why today i am pulling my hair out. From a moral and environmental standpoint, it’s all so wrong. We are deliberately killing the last of these magnificent creatures. Mother Earth will get us for this! This must stop!

Good tidings in Funzi with the advent of the tourism high season

Apologies for being offline for a couple of weeks. We are glad to report that we are back again. The high tourism season is here again and we are glad to report that Funzi Island has not been left behind. Just last week, about 200 tourists visited the island! The sleepy island is now coming to life.

 I spent a weekend with Sergei and Nick, volunteers from GVI who so generously visited the IUCN funded ecotourism project to learn about what the club is doing. Their two days on the island were packed with activities. We visited turtle nesting beaches, did the village walk, enjoyed local food, met club members and jioned in the handicraft production among others.

The lowpoint of the trip was seeing the indigenous forest destruction that is supposedly to enable construction of cottages. Whatever it is, the bulldozing is massive and a bit senseless. We kept asking ourselves what we can do to save the island. Some construction has begun, and most of it goes on right next to the beaches. As we walked through the remnants of a once dense forest, the cry of the colobus monkeys brought us to the stark reality that some of this wonderful creatures may not have a home in the next few months! With all this going on, it chills to imagine what Funzi will be like in ten years if thess developments are left to continue unchecked and unhindered.

Taking part in the club activities was as usual, so exciting. The handicraft training that the members received in April is bearing fruit – as seen through the diversity of the products they are able to creatively produce. The project is so far on course, the members are really optimistic that with the increased visitor numbers, they will be able to sell more and more of their products.

This month, there are more patrol trips around the beaches, fourse major beach clean-up exercises, more camping activities and a mangrove planting day. The club has a busy month – but its all in the name of saving the magnificent sea turtles.

Coastal development and sea turtle conservation: Where is the balance?

Access road blockage

To those who have visited the island, the mere mention of Funzi conjures images of an exotic island, untouched by human development and left behind in the scramble for scarce and fast diminishing natural resources. The island, boasting of a rich diversity of animal and plant life is also a nesting site and foraging ground for the endangered sea turtles, especially the Green and Hawksbill species. Over the years, hundreds of these magnificent sea creatures have left their crawl prints on the quiet beaches surrounding this sleepy island on the South Coast of Mombasa, as they come to nest, almost assured that their young ones will make it to the waters and begin the long voyage that has been replayed for centuries.

As dolphins play in the serene waters, various small animals scout the virgin forest, laid back in their lifestyle and unperturbed by the little human activity in the nearby village certain that no harm will beget them. My camera rapidly clicks away, catching sight of a young colobus monkey idly perched on a tree branch, and I realize that like many of his kin, he is totally unaware that the very tree branch he sits on may soon be turned into a piece into furniture adorning one of the many cottages rapidly being constructed on the island. My mind wanders off and I’m momentarily lost in thought, only to be startled by a terrified Dik Dik in full flight, scared by the strange sound of an approaching bulldozer. The chirping of the many birds hidden among the trees seems to have a different tune, almost revealing the looming threat from the new unwelcome neighbors.

Funzi island is home to slightly over 1000 people, who have over the years sustainably used the many natural resources for sustenance. A good number of the ‘fundis’ are fishermen, making use of traditional fishing methods to feed their families. The island is also home to two resorts, one of which mainly caters for visitors on day trips while the other, an all-inclusive establishment, caters for high-end tourists.

The planned cottages are an off-shoot of this all-inclusive resort, and thanks to this developments, the natural forest on the island, home to numerous small animals, birds and insects will have to go. What’s more, this wanton destruction is the work of one man, driven by profit and unhindered by anything else.

The senseless deforestation has especially complicated the work of sea turtle conservationists working on the island, and since all access paths to the beaches have been deliberately blocked, they have had to quietly sneak through the thickets, lest they come face to face with the dreaded and mean looking, baton-wielding Maasai guards, who are under strict instructions not to let anyone through.

Simple tasks such as beach clean-ups have turned into hide and seek games. Walking on the beaches can only be done in defiance, by those brave enough to stand up to the guards dotted all over the island – never mind the fact that according to Kenyan law, all land 60 metres from the high tide line is public. There’s more to come. The cottages are being built so close to the beach without the lighting ordinances being kept. Counsel and conscience have been thrown out of the window as financial gains and profit-making take the front seat.

Conservationists are now raising the red flag against this looming threat to wildlife. The Kenya Sea Turtle Conservation Committee (KESCOM), which runs a community-based conservation project in Funzi, sees this as a blow to the gains made over the years. According to the project officer, Douglas Maina, there is a need for future development on the island to be controlled if the ecosystem has to be conserved. “It is very important that we see the big picture and think in terms of today’s long-term impact on the environment and the wildlife that we are trying to conserve”, he added. The organization works locally with the Funzi Turtle Club, runs a IUCN Netherlands-sponsored pilot project that seeks to integrate sea turtle conservation with ecotourism. Cottage construction on the Island

Villagers are worried since the area administration is unable (or unwilling) to intervene. To see such a beautiful island being destroyed in such a callous manner is painfully worrying, and at the very least, annoying.

Douglas maina