The Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary (CS), Najib Balala has praised ocean conservation groups in Watamu area of Kilifi County for saving over 20,000 turtles through their conservation efforts.
“Here, we are impressed with the local ocean conservation groups which have done a great job in conserving about 20,000 turtles in this region,” he said in a press interview at the Bio Ken Snake Farm in Watamu after releasing a green turtle into the sea to mark the 2020 World Turtle Day on Tuesday.
He pledged his ministry’s support for the conservation groups with a view to protecting wildlife in the fragile marine ecosystem, especially the turtles, which he noted were considered endangered according to Appendix One of the Convention on International Trade in Endangers Species of World Fauna and Flora (CITES).
“We want to support them because they are doing a great job working with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) in terms of security and cleanliness and manning the marine park to prevent illegal fishing and hunting of important marine animals and turtles,” he said.
He said his ministry would partner with the conservation groups since they play a major role in reaching out to the community, noting that although it is the government’s responsibility to conserve marine life, it would be futile to do so without community participation.
Balala at the same time, said his ministry was drafting a new five-year Turtle Strategy and protocols that would enhance the conservation of the endangered marine creatures.
“The previous strategy expired in 2015 and we are developing a new one which we expect to be ready in August this year,” he said.
Balala, who was accompanied by the Principal Secretary in the State Department of Wildlife, Prof. Fred Segor said that five of the seven turtle species in the world were found in Kenya, two of them – the hawk-bill turtle and the green turtle – were endemic to the Coastal region.
“Today we are celebrating the World Turtle Day. As you are aware, there are seven turtle species worldwide, five of which are found in Kenya and two are mainly found in the Coastal region – the green turtle and the hawkbill turtle,” he pointed out.
He said the ministry had recognized the marine ecosystem in in its legal framework and particularly the wildlife policy which was approved in March 2020.
“We are therefore going to take the marine ecosystem to be a very serious endeavour and also because of the
The government has taken the blue economy to be a very serious agenda for developing our economy as well,” he said.
Balala also visited the Eco-World Organization in Dabaso ward where the Watamu Turtle Watch together with its partners are collecting used plastic bottles dumped along the sea shores and recycling them into souvenirs and other important items including building materials.
“We are very impressed with this project because it is helping to keep the marine environment clean,” he said adding, “We have seen the damage caused by plastics to our wildlife not only on terrestrial but also in the sea, and this is a tremendous job,” he said.
The project known as ‘trash for cash’ entails engaging local residents to collect used plastic bottles and other trash from the beaches and delivering them to Eco-World Organization in exchange for money.
“Remember that last year the President of Kenya announced a ban on plastic bottles and related items from plastics from protected areas, which include national parks, marine parks as well as reserves and forests,” he said, adding that such efforts were complementing the government ban.
The CS and his entourage, who were received by the Malindi Deputy County Commissioner, Thuo Ngugi also visited the Watamu Marine National Park and the Bio Ken Snake Farm.
By Emmanuel Masha