Lamu Marine Conservation Project

Project LocationLamu Island, Kenya
Project TypeWildlife and habitat conservation, Endangered species protection, Environmental education
Endangered SpeciesGreen Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle, Napolean Wrasse
Land Area Protected10000 km2
Benefiting Locally20,000
Schools Supported7

Lamu Marine Conservation Trust

Kenyan waters are home to five species of sea turtles, Green, Hawksbill, Olive Ridley, Leatherback and Loggerhead— all of which are red listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable.   In spite of enjoying legal protection under Wildlife and Fisheries acts, turtle populations in Kenya have declined by more than 80% over the last 30 years, and it is estimated that 85% of turtle mortalities are a result of human activities. According to The World Wildlife Fund, trends indicate that in the next 50 years turtles may vanish entirely from East Africa. 

The globally significant population of sea turtles inhabiting the seas around Lamu and its adjacent islands is under threat from a variety of anthropogenic sources including; illegal consumption and exploitation of sea turtles and eggs, degradation of turtle nesting sites through illegal beach development, and damage to foraging areas (coral reefs and sea-grass beds) from pollution, sedimentation and unsustainable fishing practices. These direct threats result in part from a lack of understanding of the status of sea turtles and the need for their conservation, as well as widespread poverty which drives local communities to overexploit both the turtles and their habitat.

Lamu Marine Conservation Trust 

Lamu Marine Conservation Trust (LaMCoT), founded in 1992 by Carol and Lars Korschen, is a community-based initiative to conserve the endangered sea turtles of the Lamu Archipelago. Since then, it has expanded to encompass a number of related projects from coral reef protection and environmental education to income generating projects and community efforts to clear rubbish from local beaches.  All of these efforts are aimed at achieving sustainable management of the Lamu coastal ecosystem. The conservation of sea turtles remains at the heart of LaMCoT’s mission, and, as a result of the team’s dedicated efforts, annual turtle hatchings have increased from 1,865 to an average of 4,578 per year.

With the help of Tusk and the local population, LaMCoT has monitored, tagged and safely released over 1,030 juvenile and adult turtles back to the sea.  Ex-poachers, who previously sold turtles accidentally caught in their fishing nets, now bring them to LaMCoT where they are tagged and returned to the sea as part of an ongoing research project. Sick or injured turtles are brought to LaMCoT where they are rehabilitated and then released.

Community Outreach

As with many other Tusk projects the success of the project lies in the commitment from the local community. In this case the community has taken the plight of the turtle on board and has changed their fishing and cultural practices. In addition to the direct work with turtles, the Trust works with the Primary Schools on Lamu establishing tree nurseries and running an environmental after school club; the Trust has also set up a bee-keeping project as an alternative form of income and has established a mobile education film library that features Tusk’s PACE project.

Tusk Support

Tusk has been the project’s primary donor covering its annual running costs since 2000. In addition Tusk has purchased a boat, which is used by the beach patrollers. The project itself is able, through donations made by visitors to the project and the sale of merchandise to cover the cost of capital items each year.

Notes from the field
LaMCoT has been very successful and steadfast in its conservation endeavors. Indeed, LaMcoT has performed above and beyond the call of duty; besides the flagship species conservation and education programmes, Lamcot has further encouraged great waste management models to be duplicated throughout the county.
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