Tag Archives: habitat rehabilitation

Integrating Sea turtle conservation with sports

The world cup fever is a welcome craze to billions of people worldwide. This once in a while event comes as a blessing to a wide cross-section of our communities, never mind the fact that some of our local national teams are going to join us on the couch and sharing our popcorn instead of dressing up in jerseys and kicking some ball like their peers! It is that time again when, if you loathe football, you should then descend into a remote bunker that you should have built earlier. This season, however, I doubt whether the sea turtles will be happy with the hordes of football fans who will undoubtedly find their way into South African beaches. I know for a fact that the noise too will be unwelcome because I am sure South Africa will be loud over the next couple of weeks.

On the bright side, this soccer craze has its good tidings. In many places along the coast, hundreds of young people are engaged in this much-loved sport in the name of sea turtle conservation. From Funzi to Kipini, the Mexican wave is rapidly catching on. Take the Turtle F.C. for instance. Supported and sponsored by the Tana Friends of the Marine Environment (TAFMEN), the team is a force to reckon with in the local tournaments. The wannabe Ronaldos, Drogbas and Marigas have a passion not only for kicking around leather, but also keeping the sea turtles alive.

That is why each match is a sea turtle education and awareness opportunity for them, using the pre-match moments to urge the community to conserve the sea turtles and their habitats. Sticking out in the stands, one cannot fail to notice ‘Save the sea turtle’ messages interspersed with team slogans.

Members of TAFMEN are a permanent feature in the cheering stands, taking a deserved breather from patrolling and monitoring their beaches to watch these truly talented young men take to the field. Practice sessions are taken seriously, with the coach imparting both tactical and life skills to the team. To John Kali, a member of TAFMEN and stand-in coach, the soccer pitch is one place where the youth can sit still and listen keenly. Shaibu Mohammed can’t agree more, and he relishes in the very idea of scouting for sponsors and well-wishers to support this young and determined club. He looks forward to the day, which he reckons is coming soon, when other seashore communities shall borrow a leaf from Kipini. Soon, he says, the district cup finals may very well be a match between Green turtle F.C. and Hawkbill F.C., better still, third place could be the new kids on the block, Leatherback United.

At the end of each game, the message left ringing in the spectators’ ears is clear, Turtle F.C. is a good side…………and there really is a need to conserve the endangered sea turtles.
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Turtle FC members during practice

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Center: Team captain, John Kali

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Infront: TAFMEN project coordinator, Shaibu Mohamed

Douglas

Big clean-up on Funzi Island

Last Monday Suleiman, our friend and a Funzi Turtle Club member, came to us and said that Tuesday was a national holiday and the kids are free from school. He had an idea to take a group of students for a major clean-up in the biggest beach on the island, Mwakinyavu. We jumped at the chance as this is one of the best nesting beaches for sea turtles on Funzi and it is too big to clean for a few people. Our worries were only that the children would rather do something else on their day off…

On Tuesday morning we woke up early, trying to avoid walking to the beach when the sun is already on “scorch”. After eating our daily chapatis washed down with a nice chai maziwa (milk tea) we went to the school to see if anyone would join us. The only ones appearing were two girls, and after 20 minutes our suspicions for a “no show” were growing. But suddenly, the school yard filled with children with the encouragement of another club member, Nashamba. About 25 girls and boys from 6 to 16 years old came and impatiently wanted to get started. After a short introduction from Suleiman we started our 45 minutes long walk in the hot Kenyan sun. When we got to Mwakinyavu the kids just spread out and started collecting all kinds of junk that happened to reach the shore – old plastic sandals, hundreds of plastic bottles and other bits and pieces of plastic.

Within half an hour the largest beach on Funzi was clean. Well, it turned out to be more garbage than we managed to carry back to the village. The rest was taken later by the rest of the Turtle Club members. After the hard work we recovered our strength with a soda with the children who made this achievement possible.

The big problem with the plastic debris arriving the beaches here, apart from the obvious non-appealing sight, is that sea turtles and other animals confuse it with food and either choke or get poisoned from it. The clean-ups by the club members, and the children, are an important contribution to marine wildlife.

Another activity of the Funzi Turtle Club is to create handicrafts from the waste, which creates livelihood and gives some value to the undesired, ever growing piles of garbage on the beaches.

A problem we face here on Funzi is that disposal of garbage is nonexistent. All garbage is burned uncontrolled in open fires or simply dug down in the soil. There are no facilities to do any kind of recycling here. The waste pollutes both the air, soil and water around the island. Better facilities here, or at least a better way to transport the junk to the mainland to be recycled, will contribute much to both people and the ecosystems. But at least we are lucky enough to have many children that care about their environment, the future is bright!