Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tourism a threat to the Watamu endangered Turtles

For those of you who have ever had the chance to enjoy a holiday at Kenya’s Watamu – Malindi beach,you  know how much of heaven these sandy, white, lovely beaches have to offer. This week I happened to stumble upon a very interesting and educative article written by Jessica Aldred of the online portal of the guardian magazine. I had always known that Turtles were among the many species on the IUCN list of endangered species but it is only after thoroughly reading this article did I realise the level of seriousness about this matter. In the article, she brought to light the fact that as much us we are embracing tourism at the coast, Irresponsible tourism could result in destroying one of the main reasons as to why we have tourists at our beaches!
A baby green sea turtle – one of the five turtle species that can be found in Kenya. Photograph: Michele Westmorland/Getty Images
  •   Eight tourists at the beach equal to one job created in the tourism sector.
  •  Female Turtles nest their eggs on the beach shores.
  •   Five of the world’s seven species are found in Kenya, green, hawksbill, olive ridleys, loggerheads and leatherbacks.
  •   All  turtle species are listed as critically endangered by the IUCN. In the past 50 years the population has declined by 80% and the WWF say if the trend continues, there will be no marine turtles in existence in eastern Africa.
  • Of the turtles admitted in Turtle help centres such as the Local Ocean Trust’s Watamu TurtleWatch, 62% of the turtles are brought to the clinics because of human related causes many associated with tourism
As I read these facts moving from one point to the next, I reminisced on what would happen if marine life was extinct and how the sea would no –longer be appealing or be one of the main attractions that undoubtedly bring in so many tourists at our local beaches. This also led me to thinking about the root of the no tourists’ consequence that we would face as a country! So the ultimate question that needed to be answered was, how was tourism taking turtles from Kenya’s blue waters?

Photograph by Nick Caloyianis - National Geographic
  •  Disposing of litter in the sea is one of the hazards. This is dangerous to Marine life as turtles may mistake the clear plastic waste for jellyfish and can die if they eat it.
  • Buying products that have been made from sea turtle parts or any marine life. This will only make those who sell to you these items go back in the sea for more of the animals so they can sell more!
  • Stay at beach resorts that do not have responsible beachfront management practices, for example banning bright lights that face the beach and can confuse nesting turtles.
  • Driving motorised vehicles on the beach and as a result compacted sand from vehicles makes it difficult for turtles to dig nests.
  •  Restaurants that serve undersized crabs and lobsters as this contributes to the species’ demise.
  • Snorkeling and diving are encouraged but under the supervision of KWS wardens who work closely with local tour operators and hoteliers to ensure strict adherence   to marine wildlife code.
  •  Removing, damaging or touching corals. They are living organisms that take years to grow and support the many species.
These are just but a few things that if observed could save our marine life. It may all not be 100% possible at present but we can meet at least 99.99% if we keep our conscious awake and practice responsible tourism, and as KWS say, “Leave only footprints in the sand and air bubbles in the water.”

NB: Some resorts at Kenya's Watamu Coast that have good beachfront mahagement are Hemingways Resort, Turtle Bay Beach Resort, Ocean Sports.

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