Tag Archives: KESCOM

SUCCESSFUL COMPLETION OF FUNZI PROJECT

In 2009, KESCOM launched a project dubbed ‘integrating community based conservation with ecotourism on Funzi Island’. Supported by IUCN NL, the project sought to underke sea turtle conservation while improving the linkages between sea turtle conservation initiatives and poverty reduction measures. To achieve this, a crucial component was to develop alternative revenue and income bases through the community-based ecotourism ventures in order to develop and maintain economic benefits to the community at Funzi.

The Funzi Turtle Club acquired a boat and outboard engine and also participated in a series of trainings on ecotourism and handicraft production, making use of flip flops and plastic bags collected during the frequent beach clean-ups. In the course of the year, the club’s management capacity was greatly fostered through presentations on tour guiding, financial as well as enterprise management.

The boat ‘kasa ngozi’ is also used for in-water monitoring and patrols, an activity that has dealt a blow to would be sea turtle poachers around the island. Beach patrols were intensified as was habitat rehabilitation through mangrove replanting. Other regular activities included in-situ nest protection, tagging-and release, collection of vital sea turtle data as well as education and awareness campaigns.

Today, Funzi turtle club successfully runs an ecotourism enterprise incorporating an exciting homestay programme and also produces various interesting handicrafts for the local and international markets.

The message spread through the frequent education and awareness sessions seem to have hit home with visible community support for conservation activities in evidence. The island, now christened ‘the turtle island’ is a model on how conservation can gain immense community support while contributing to poverty alleviation strategies.

KESCOM continues to monitor the project and support the club in their activities. This year, thanks to support from Seacology, we hope to construct a marine centre in Funzi, to further streamline the club’s activities.

We sincerely thank IUCN NL for funding this project. Our hearty appreciation also goes to GVI, who have really done a lot in building the capacity Funzi turtle club, as well as greatly contributed to the homestay programme. Asante! KWS shimoni and Mombasa, we appreciate your continued support.

Asante sana to the Funzi community for your cooperation and for embracing this noble project. Our thanks also go to KESCOM staff who managed the project to successful completion and most importanly, to our trustees for the unwaivering support.

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

A BEACH CLEAN UP AT MWAEMBE BEACH, MSAMBWENI

Yesterday I got a chance to participate in a beach clean-up exercise that was organized by Msambweni Turtle and Marine Conservation Group. This happened at Mwaembe beach one of the major nesting site for sea turtles in the area. Infact during this particular three kilometers beach clean up am informed that there are three nests that are due for hatching in December. The young, old, men and women, all dedicated members were here to volunteer in making the beach environment clean and conducive for the turtles. The oldest member of the group is Mzee Salim. He’s seventy-six year old and his old age does not deter him from joining the rest of the members in participating in turtle conservation activities. He manages to complete the two-hour exercise together with the rest of us. We collected approximately ten kilograms of litter ranging form flip-flops, bottles, sacks, ropes, paper bags and so on. It is however unfortunate that I did not get a chance to be a part of the sorting process where the litter is sorted out into different categories because I ran out of time and had to rush back to Mombasa. However the members promised me that I would get the data once they meet and did the sorting. They hope to recycle it into useful items in the near future. I also gave them some of the children storybooks that were recently donated to KESCOM by the Save Our Seas Foundation. The group will use these books to create awareness especially to school children.I left the place at around six in the evening and I sure had a wonderful time. I hope to go back soon, this time to witness the hatchling release of the three nests.  Mzee Salim.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Rose 

Destructive fishing practices on Funzi Bay

The remains of a large female green turtle was found slaughtered on the south shore of Funzi Island on Tuesday 17th of October. The meat had been removed, probably at sea, and the cadaver was dumped to be taken taken to shore by the waves. This was the first time we encountered this type of incident, which is not very common nowadays. All local fishermen here on Funzi Island are aware that poaching sea turtles is both illegal and immoral.

This incident coincides disturbingly with the presence of few large motorboats who are using ring nets just off shore on Funzi Bay. This non-selective fishing method is extremely harmful to the marine ecosystem. Recently, it also became illegal in Kenya. A ring net will catch everything within its width, with no consideration to what species are harvested and to the size of the individuals caught. When used around coral reefs, ring nets are known to cause massive destruction.

The local people in Funzi are powerlessly watching this destruction occurring on daily basis in their own fishing waters. The unwelcome fishermen operate in large groups, with up to 30 roughnecked men on each boat. It is said that each boat can catch up to 5 tonnes of fish a day. The crew often originates from other areas, even from as far as Tanzania. Their understanding of the conditions in the marine ecosystem here is very limited, and their incentive to brutally exploit the fish here is clear – each fishermen earns about 7000 Kenyan shillings a day (roughly 70€). At least three of these vessels have been exploiting the water around Funzi during the last month. Trying to chase away such a fishing boat from the area might en up in a violent conflict.

Fish in Funzi is an important resource. It is an absolutely vital protein source for the islands’ inhabitants and provides a well-needed income for the fishermen. According to experienced fishermen, the landings of fish have been rapidly declining during the last years. The activities witnessed around here will certainly have a negative impact on fisheries and are endangering both the ecosystem and the people relying on it. This, in turn, will certainly make life even more difficult for sea turtles. In addition to habitat destruction and the higher risk of getting caught in nets, there is an overhanging risk that even local fishermen will go back to poaching turtles in the absence of fish. Since this fishing occurs on such a large scale, it is up to the local authorities to take action. The local fishermen can not protect the environment by themselves.

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!

Destruction on Funzi Island Continues

Whenever anybody hears the name ‘Funzi Island’, they think sea turtles, this is because Funzi Island is undoubtedly a turtle haven. With virtually untouched beaches and little human development, this island boasts of six nesting sites, out of which thousands of hatchlings have crawled into the open ocean every year – for thousands of years. All the seven species of the sea turtles are listed by the IUCN as ‘endangered’, with the green turtle being in the red list, meaning it is ‘critically endangered’. Two species of turtles nest on Funzi Island while others are known to forage in the waters off the Kenyan coast. More than 50% of this magnificent island is covered in mangrove forest and an indigenous forest, home to small animals such as the rare colobus monkeys, dik diks, wild pigs and a host of terrestrial and marine birds.

Conservation efforts spearheaded by organisations such as the Kenya Sea Turtle Conservation & Management Committee (KESCOM), the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) among others, seem to be bearing fruit. With the help and support from KESCOM, over 18 local-volunteer-led Turtle Conservation Groups (TCGs) have sprung up all along the coast and are doing an incredible job cleaning beaches, undertaking beach patrols, protecting nests and rehabilitating sea turtle habitats.

Funzi Turtle Club is one of the oldest and most active of these groups. Consisting of 30 members, the club has consistently and jealously guarded the six beaches on the island against poachers and wild predators. The group frequently carries out public education and awareness, illuminating the need for community involvement in conservation activities. These efforts have seen a sharp decline in sea turtle poaching and consumption. Sadly, these efforts are being sabotaged and the gains made reversed, thanks to a private developer on the island.

The Swiss-Italian hotelier who is the proprietor of a high-end private resort in Funzi is on a deforestation melee in his unchecked quest to expand his dominance on the island. This capitalistic catastrophe has led him to fence off chunks of forest land effectively hampering movement on the island for the locals and completely blocking access routes to the beaches. His bulldozers work overtime – flattening the tropical forest synonymous with Funzi, a feature which made the island a truly exotic destination. This spells doom to conservation efforts. Funzi residents have now raised the red flag and are crying out in protest.

Particularly enraged are the turtle club members who are unable to reach the beaches to carry out their daily conservation activities. This leaves the nesting sites vulnerable, exposing them to egg and turtle poachers. Collection of vital turtle activity data and nest monitoring activities are also greatly affected, leaving the club members a dejected and angry lot.

Walking through what is left of the once thick virgin forest is a sad and emotional affair. The look on the little monkeys’ faces perched high on baobab trees and staring at fresh clearings almost tells their story – that of impeding doom. Their calls translate to a cry for help, speaking for the other animals and the turtles that cannot speak. The lingering question remains: If this individual will not listen to a plea from humans, can’t he at least stop and listen to the cry of the monkeys?

The Dobos on Funzi

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.

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!

Msambweni education and awareness campaign

Members of the Simakeni Environmental group pose for a group photo after a successiful awareness dayMsambweni residents started trooping in early, on foot, by bycycle and by matatu. I couldn’t make up my mind whether they are ‘constitutionally accustomed’ to keeping time or it is the music blaring from the stereo that prompted their early arrival. Nevertheless, by the time the MC called to order, there was already a crowd that would make any politician’s mouth water. But no, this wasn’t a political gathering, it was one of the monthly education and awareness days organised by Simakeni Environmental Group, one of the Turtle Conservation Groups working under KESCOM in the south coast.

This particular one was so involving and interactive and was led by KESCOM staff, together with officers from the local office of the Ministry of fisheries. The awareness is carried out under the Tiwi, Diani Chale, Management trust with a CDTF grant.

Not only were the presentations stimulating, so was the input by the locals who wowed all of use with their knowledge of turtle conservation issues. Standing out was a villager nicknamed ‘bwana kasa’ (Mr. Turtle), a self confessed former turtle poacher, now in the forefront in conservation.

The discussion topics included, general sea turtle biology, the need for conservation, laws that protect the sea turtles as well as the community’s role in conservation.

At the end of the day, it was clear that this particular community was ready and willing to give sea turtle conservation, the much needed community support. It was also another feather in the Simakeni group’s hat for managing to organise yet another successiful awareness day.

  

PUBLIC AWARENESS ABOUT SEA TURTLES

KESCOM has intensified public awareness of the existence, status, threats and conservation of sea turtles in Kenya. It has achieved this through enhanced newspaper articles, newsletters, brochures, t-shirt distribution and presentations and lectures in schools and hotels. Awareness in hotels and schools  has ongoing been since early this month.

Above: Students pose for a photo after a lecture on sea turtles held

BELOW: A tourist displays a KESCOM t-shirt he recieved, during a sea turtle lecture at Sun n’ Sand  hotel, Mombasa.

KESCOM hopes to reach a larger public, to pass on important information concerning sea turtle and there status in an effort to conserve and protect these magnificent yet endangered animals.