In 1997 some residents of Watamu, near the middle of Kenya’s coastline, decided to take action and launched Watamu Turtle Watch (WTW). Five years later, recognising the need for community involvement in marine conservation, they expanded their activities and created Local Ocean Trust (LOT). Their work focuses on nest protection and by-catch release but also encompasses rehabilitation, community education, and research.
Watamu is one of Kenya’s three most important nesting sites for turtles. A dedicated team of LOT Beach Monitors conducts patrols day and night to protect nesting female turtles, their nests and their hatchlings. The Trust also works with 350 local fishermen who, when they accidentally catch a turtle, bring to LOT rather than killing or abandoning it. These individuals are measured and returned directly to the sea, or taken to the LOT Rehabilitation Centre. The centre has cared for over 300 turtles since 2003, with 70% recovering from life-threatening injuries or infections to be returned to the wild. Meanwhile the LOT education programme works with 30 local schools to teach students about marine conservation and inspire them to ‘Love Their Local Ocean’.
Tusk has supported LOT’s Sea Turtle Bycatch Release Programme, which works closely with over 450 fishermen to reduce the number of sea turtle mortalities resulting from bycatch; and their Nest Monitoring and Protection work that involves patrolling the beach within the Marine Park in order to monitor nesting activity and provide protection for nesting female sea turtles, their eggs and their hatchlings. The Marine Scouts Programme, provides a year-long field course for eight local children promotes abilities in observation, data collection and analysis, as well as encouraging a love of nature. 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.
The work of LOT is vital to protect the turtle population around this important location. Its ongoing activities need our ongoing support.
Image Credits: Turtle © Paolo Parazzi and Baby Turtle © Lara Diesbecq