Tanzania takes steps to conserve sea turtles in danger of extinction

Tanzania in new drive to save sea turtles from extinction

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Image taken on Nov. 7, 2015 shows a girl watching Lora sea turtles arriving to lay their eggs on Ostional Beach, 295km northwest of San Jose, capital of Costa Rica. Over 250,000 Olive Ridley sea turtles came ashore on Nov. 9 morning to nest at Ostional Beach on Costa Rica´s coast. (Xinhua/Kent Gilbert)
Image taken on Nov. 7, 2015 shows a girl watching Lora sea turtles arriving to lay their eggs on Ostional Beach, 295km northwest of San Jose, capital of Costa Rica. Over 250,000 Olive Ridley sea turtles came ashore on Nov. 9 morning to nest at Ostional Beach on Costa Rica´s coast. (Xinhua/Kent Gilbert)

Tanzania has embarked on a new programme geared towards conservation of sea turtles which are in danger of extinction following increased environmental pollution and illegal trawling in the Indian Ocean coastline.

Image taken on Nov. 7, 2015 shows a girl watching Lora sea turtles arriving to lay their eggs on Ostional Beach, 295km northwest of San Jose, capital of Costa Rica. Over 250,000 Olive Ridley sea turtles came ashore on Nov. 9 morning to nest at Ostional Beach on Costa Rica´s coast. (Xinhua/Kent Gilbert)
Image taken on Nov. 7, 2015 shows a girl watching Lora sea turtles arriving to lay their eggs on Ostional Beach, 295km northwest of San Jose, capital of Costa Rica. Over 250,000 Olive Ridley sea turtles came ashore on Nov. 9 morning to nest at Ostional Beach on Costa Rica´s coast. (Xinhua/Kent Gilbert)

Saadani National Park which is Tanzania’s only wildlife sanctuary bordering the Indian Ocean shores, is the home of a wide range of marine creatures including the sea turtles.

Hamis Abdallah, an official from Saadani National Park, recently decried the increasing human activities in the Indian Ocean shores.

He noted that sea turtles were among the marine species whose sustainability in Tanzanian coastal waters is under threat unless concerted efforts are taken to stabilize their environments.

According to him, the wellbeing of these species is especially tied to coral reefs which serve as breeding and nestling areas.

“Coral reefs have a life of their own as marine ecology and form a habitat of many fish species,” he said, noting further that “an island in Pangani area within the park, which served as home to turtles was being submerged under the sea.”

“As experts, we are very concerned with the trend, which in most cases is worsened by the effects of climate change,” said Abdallah who is a sea turtle expert in Tanzania’s coastline wildlife sanctuary.

“We have seen the number of sea turtles going down in recent years,” he said, adding that over 20,000 potential turtle hatchings may have disappeared from the area, partly on account of the fact their reproduction is rather slow.

The expert also attributed the dwindling number of turtles to over fishing.

“Some fishermen have been endangering the lives of sea turtles and other marine resources particularly those which survive on the Indian Ocean coastline,” he said, and at the same time cautioned fishermen who do fish turtles found on the sea shores.

“To us, this is a challenge as turtles tend to lay eggs in the dry land and that is why they are at risk. Apart from human beings, turtles are being attacked by sharks and monitor lizards which feed on turtle eggs. All these are what put turtles’ lives at risk,” he said.

As a solution, Abdallah said, Saadani National Park had come up with a new strategy that involves enclosing a section of the sea waters to be under its protection, whereby no one is allowed to get into the enclosed waters.

“As conservationists, we see this as a solution to save the marine creatures from extinction,” the official said, adding that park authorities had decided to involve the community in conservation efforts.

The expert said conservation efforts had yielded positive results as an estimated 13,500 turtles had been hatched between 2009 to 2012.

Community involvement has equally been employed as a strategy by Sea Sense, a Non Government Organisation (NGO) that has been working closely with coastal communities in north-eastern region of Tanga to conserve and protect sea turtles.

According to Boniventure Mchomvu, a project officer at Sea Sense, sea turtles are among the marine creatures that face extinction due to human activities in the coastal zone.

“The challenge for our conservation efforts is that coastal communities have long made the turtle an important part of their diets and tradition,” the official said, adding that they use turtle meat as food, they use turtle oil as medicine and they also use turtle eggs as aphrodisiacs.

“To convince them to change their mindset has become a hectic task, but we are trying to involve them in the conservation,” Mchomvu said, adding that “we are now happy to report that our efforts have started bearing fruits as sea turtles have now started breeding at Ushongo village after the villagers accepted the idea and started conserving marine environment.”

Green turtles are the most common species in Tanzania, feeding on extensive sea grass beds found along the Tanzanian coast. Enditem

Source: Xinhua

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