Tag Archives: Seaturtle

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.
Turtle FC members during practice

Center: Team captain, John Kali

Infront: TAFMEN project coordinator, Shaibu Mohamed


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.


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.