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Conservation

Various conservation efforts have been ongoing to protect marine life. Such efforts include tutle farming as a conservation measure towards the endangered tuttles.

Case Report: Priority Ecosystems and Species

Kenya is rich in biological diversity. Around 25,000 species of animal and 7000 species of plants have so far been recorded, along with atleast 2000 fungi and bacteria. An enormous species of plants and animals inhabit the country’s varied habitats, from its crowded and colorful coral reefs to icy alpine moorlands. What is however, clear is that Kenya’s biodiversity is under threats from a variety of sources include natural and anthropogenic effects, and without concerted efforts for research and focused conservation actions, we are likely to loose unique species some of which are endemic to Kenya.

The extensive network of protected areas gazetted as national parks and reserves offer a greater opportunity for Kenya’s biodiversity conservation.

Endangered and threatened fishes in Kenya

Singidia tilapia (Oreochromis esculentus); Lake Chala tilapia (Oreochromis hunteri); Jipe tilapia (Oreochromis jipe); Victoria tilapia (Oreochromis variabilis); Rainbow sheller (Ptyochromis sp.); Lake Victoria deepwater catfish (Xenoclarias eupogon); Montane dancing-jewel (Platycypha amboniensis); Magadi tilapia (Alcolapia alcalicus); Giant wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus); Victoria stonebasher (Marcusenius victoriae); Kyoga flameback (Xystichromis nuchisquamulatus); Grey nurse shark (Carcharias taurus); Bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus); Whale shark (Rhincodon typus); Porcupine ray (Urogymnus asperrimus); Oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus); Great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias); Bowmouth guitarfish (Rhina ancylostoma); Black-blotched stingray (Taeniura meyeni); Giant guitarfish (Rhynchobatus djiddensis); Shorttail nurse shark (Pseudoginglymostoma brevicaudatum); Brindle bass (Epinephelus lanceolatus); Blue notho (Nothobranchius patrizii); Boji plains nothobranch (Nothobranchius bojiensis); Elongate nothobranch (Nothobranchius elongatus); Ewaso nyiro labeo (Labeo percivali).

| Reference: KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) |

Tuttle farming (conservation measure towards the endangered tuttles) | top

Turtle conservation at the Kenya Coast .

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is managing a project at the Kenyan Coast in which the local community is involved in efforts to conserve the rare and endangered sea turtles. Measures focus on the protection and management of foraging grounds. Members of the community are encouraged to look out for nests along the beaches and report any sightings to KWS rangers.

A person who does so is paid the equivalent of US$12.50, and is encouraged to ensure the eggs are well guarded. A further US$12.50 is paid out when the hatchlings emerge, and 50 cents per egg hatched. Thus a person who finds and guards a nest may receive upto US$32.50 per nest. This is a significant sum given the average fisherman's monthly income of US$75.

The hatched turtles are then released into the sea by KWS officials in the presence of visitors and local people.

KWS data indicates that sea turtles are widely distributed along the Kenyan coastline within the 20-mile isobar areas mainly associated with sea grasses and coral reefs. Turtles are, however, highly migratory with nesting beaches usually located a long way from the feeding grounds.

The first extensive aerial census of sea turtles in Kenya was carried out in 1994 and revealed a population of just 1,000 to 2,000 reptiles. These include the olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the green turtle (Chelonia mydas).

Large numbers of migratory sea turtles - the loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and leatherback (Demochelys coriacea) which can reach two metres in length and weigh 500 kilogrammes - also forage in Kenyan waters, especially at Wasini, Takaungu, Ungwana Bay, and the Kiunga Marine Reserve (the site of a marine conservation project supported by the East African Regional Programme Office of WWF - World Wide Fund for Nature).

Both resident and visiting turtles are increasingly under threat. The harvesting of turtle eggs, demands for its meat and oil, habitat destruction of nesting and foraging grounds by human encroachment (coastal and tourism development), pollution and beach erosion are all taking a heavy toll.

Another threat is posed by fishing trawlers and drift nets which accidentally catch sea turtles and drown them in fishing gear. Worldwide, an estimated 155,000 turtles die every year in trawlers' shrimp nets.

Sea turtles are the earth's oldest living vertebrate animals. They existed 150 million years ago, even before the dinosaur. These giant reptiles have a life span of 50 to 100 years. This makes them important environmental indicators of long-term marine changes.

Sea turtles are protected by Kenyan Law, but its enforcement has been so wanting, particularly in the protection of nesting beaches, that their survival cannot be taken for granted.

When local environmentalists recognised the serious danger to the reptile they acted to check and reverse the trend. A Turtle Conservation Committee was formed to generate public support. Members include representatives from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the Wildlife Clubs of Kenya (WCK), local marine-related institutions, private companies, hoteliers, and individual conservationists.

the Turtle Conservation Committee plans to campaign for legislation requiring fishing vessels to be fitted with Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDS). These devices are specially made not to trap turtles but will catch fish. They have proved to be 97 per cent effective at releasing sea turtles ensnared by trawler nets. The committee is also considering a turtle tagging programme to monitor their movements.

Further, the conservation committee has just produced and distributed teaching kit, for use by environmental educators. Besides providing information on sea turtles, it encourages activism such as writing letters to the Press and Government. Other resources are videos, a slide show, an adopt-a-nest programme, and books.

As George Wamukoya, KWS marine botanist and chairman of the committee, says, "Once the children are fully aware of the importance of turtle conservation, they will in turn educate their parents. The parents will then be more willing to share information with us on things such as the traditional uses of turtles."

Local community participation in the exercise appears to be the only sure way to control wanton destruction of the turtles and their habitat.

The very nature of participatory activities implies that they will operate at the local level. This will ensure that the project process from indentification through design, implementation and evaluation, involves individuals, local communities, the private sector and government.

But this, will only succeed if direct economic benefits are passed on as incentives to the communities involved. And mechanisms are developed that enhance the intergration of local traditional beliefs and practices that have protected the turtles for centuries in the overall conservation and management of the creatures.

Equally important, is the establishment of mutually acceptable and adaptable systems of dispute resolution in all participating groups, and the setting up of a comprehensive national monitoring system that would be linked to other regional initiatives.

Local scientists recognise that for better conservation of turtles, it will be imperative to collaborate with their counterparts in the eastern and southern African coastal range. Such a collaboration should be geared towards further scientific studies of turtles and the sensitisation of the public. So far, only Kenya and South Africa have conducted studies on turtles yet turtles are known to migrate throughout the region.

| Source ( Africa safari guide - safariweb) |
 

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