Local Ocean Trust

Project LocationWatamu, Kenya
Endangered SpeciesGreen, Hawsbill, Olive Ridley, Leatherback, and Loggerhead turtles
Land Area Protected50 km2
Local People Employed19
Schools Supported26
Project Websitewww.watamuturtles.com/

Local Ocean Trust

The Watamu area of Kenya’s coast is internationally renowned for its outstanding natural beauty, its diverse habitat and abundant marine and bird life. Five species of turtles are found in Kenyan waters (Green, Hawksbill, Olive Ridley, Leatherback and Loggerhead). All five of these species are red listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable. Globally, the turtle population is estimated to have declined by 80% over the past 50 years, and the World Wildlife Fund says trends indicate that in the next 50 years turtles may vanish entirely from eastern Africa.

Local Ocean Trust (LOT) was established in 2002 to promote the conservation and protection of special marine areas and endangered species. LOT works to encourage the sustainable use and management of marine resources for future generations and to protect Kenya’s rich marine heritage through community development, education, research and awareness. The involvement of the local community is an essential part of this work.

The Malindi - Watamu marine protected areas (MPAs) are amongst the oldest in the world. However, the challenge is to ensure that these MPAs are truly safeguarded both now and in the future. Over the years, the understanding of the benefits of Watamu’s MPAs has diminished. Few people, including policy makers, appreciate the importance of this ocean and its environs as crucially important conservation areas, protected by law. Unfortunately, park regulations were drafted for terrestrial environments but are weak for on-water activities and MPAs. Monitoring of the areas and responding to infringements is also inhibited by the fact that Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has only 12 personnel based locally. For this reason, grass roots organisations such as LOT play a crucial role in supporting the authorities to achieve their mandates.

Increasing pressure from the growing human population and unmanaged developments in the Watamu area has negatively impacted the marine environment. The integrity of MPAs has been threatened, culminating in the loss of turtle nesting sites and a continuation of turtle and other poaching. As such, LOT has recognised the need to increase awareness raising activities, including those targeting young people.

Watamu Turtle Watch

The project’s original flagship programme, Watamu Turtle Watch (WTW), works to protect Kenya’s endangered turtle population. WTW’s programmes include: a highly successful By Catch and Net Release programme with over 8,630 turtles released since its inception; the only Turtle Rehabilitation Centre in East Africa; a Nest Protection and Monitoring Programme; an Education Programme that works with school children, tourists, hotels, and local fishermen; a marine education centre; as well as capacity building programmes for fishermen’s groups.

1,305 students, coming from a huge arrayeducational institutions,have visited WTW’s centre since January 2012.  WTW works with 26 local schools and over 200 teachers on a regular basis. As part of the Education Programme, WTW also supports a Marine Scouts initiative with 8 regular participants aged 8- 14 who are recruited and trained annually.

Tusk Support

Tusk support has enabled 8 young students to participate in LOT’s Marine Scouts programme, which involves a yearlong field study course based in beach, riparian and creek areas.  The curriculum is experiential and designed to promote abilities in observation, data collection and analysis, as well as to encourage a love of nature. Scouts are involved in collecting and replanting mangrove seedlings as well as recognising signs of illegal mangrove felling and identifying harmful beach and creek activities. The Scouts also learn to identify trees, birds and natural plant remedies. They enjoy gardening, ‘treasure’ hunts, beach clean ups, turtle releases, nest identification and monitoring and working in LOT’s Rehabilitation Centre. The aim is to inspire the future custodians of Kenya’s marine biodiversity and to nurture a life long love of their local ocean heritage.

Notes from the field
The Local Ocean Trust Marine Scouts spend every Saturday conducting basic scientific field studies and learning new skills, ranging from species identification to planting mangroves and conducting surveys. At the moment, our scouts are learning the importance of the Water Cycle and conducting evaporation experiments with a range of different saline solutions.

The most exciting part is seeing the smiles on their faces when they are performing the water cycle dance we have taught them! Afterwards the students help to measure and release sea turtles caught in fishing nets through our By-Catch net Release programme.
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