After months of planning and long e-mail exchanges we were finally in Kenya, on the way to “our” island and a voluntary work with the people of Funzi and KESCOM. While waiting for the boat to take us for the first time to Funzi Island, a local fisherman came with a rice sack containing a green sea turtle. It had been caught in the fishing nets early in the morning and was now to be rescued back after measurements and tagging with an ID number. We were so happy about seeing a turtle already on our first day on the island! It was a juvenile, but we believe it was a female and she was named Sonia after me (J or I, doesn’t really matter here). I’m wondering where she might be heading, if she will follow her friends from here that were found as far as South Africa or if she will stay around and watch us while we swim… Anyway, if she will survive all the dangers at sea and at shore, I hope she will be hatching new Sonja-turtles one day!
What worries me now as we have been walking around this small paradise island is that Sonia may not recognize her nesting beach when it’s her time to return. The level of destruction in this island is massive and it seems most of it is caused by just one single businessman operating the island with connections and money.
We are working together with the Funzi Turtle Club, who are doing such admirable work on a volunteer basis to benefit the sea turtles. They are performing daily cleaning of the beaches, patrolling and making handicrafts from rubbish collected on the beaches, to mention a few things. Today we joined beach patrols in the morning. Beautiful sceneries of white sand beaches mixed with mangrove forests and few signs for exploitation – only a few small fishing boats using simple fishing equipments. In the evening we were supposed to visit one of the six nesting beaches to conduct cleaning as well as monitoring of the beach. There is only one road to access this beach, and the land surrounding this road has been fenced by the the above mentioned businessman, who has his private air-strip there. When we came, a Masai guard stopped us from entering the public road leading towards the beach. The guard was holding a knife in one hand and aggressively telling us off, following us back to the gate. We were not able to reach the beach and were left with no other options than to return back home. Our aim, to monitor the beach and clean it from debris, could not be reached.
There is no alternative road to this very important nesting beach, and the turtle group is now unable to perform their patrols, clean ups or monitoring. This is a disaster for the turtles, which are known to come to nest soon, and a hard blow to the dedicated group of people working here. The feelings are turbulent on Funzi at the moment. The locals are being restricted from their right to use their own land, and the turtles are left unprotected. All in the name of greed.