American Ambassador to Kenya Robert ‘Bob’ Godec has been visiting Watamu and during his trip, took time out to release some turtles back into the wild as part of the Local Ocean Trust project.
The Ambassador’s visit coincided with a launch by Make It Kenya and Magical Kenya attended by Chair Justin Kitsao who met with Hon Najib Balala, the cabinet secretary of tourism this morning during the #TembeaKenya SMS Launch Campaign, promoting Kenyan tourism nationally.
Sometimes, critically endangered species of marine turtles are captured in fishing gear accidently. They become tangled in nets and risk injury, drowning and even slaughter.
The Local Ocean Trust (LOT) work with around 350 local fishermen who, instead of slaughtering the turtles they catch or leaving them to die, contact the organisation.
— Wonders of Watamu (@WondersofWatamu) January 13, 2016
Once in the care of LOT, the team assess the turtle’s condition, check for parasites and injuries and collect data such as measurements, weight, species, gender etc. They then tag or record the number of an existing tag to enable them to monitor the condition of turtles that have been recaptured. Sometimes these are even ex-patients from their Rehabilitation Centre!
If the turtle is fit and healthy it is transported to a safe release site where they are returned to the ocean.
If the turtle is sick or injured, it is instead taken back to their Rehabilitation Centre for medical treatment and given specialist care until such time as they are strong enough to be released.
The American Ambassador also visited the Mida Creek mangroves, the Kipepeo Farm Project and took a boat ride into the Watamu Marine Park.
Mida Creek is a large saline lagoon that merges with a 1,600 hectare Mangrove forest. The area has a number of different habitats and supports a diverse range of flora and fauna including both indigenous and migratory species.
A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and one of the most important conservation regions in Africa, Mida Creek is an important birding area and is significant in the passage and as a wintering location of migrant waders from Paleartic regions such as northern Africa, Europe, Asia and the Himalaya foothills.
Many young Turtles also use the area as a feeding ground and it is an important spawning ground for several fish species.