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Marine ecological reports have indicated that sea turtles face extinction within the next 50 years if action is not taken. This indication necessitated the CITES to list sea turtles in the region of Mombasa, Kenya as critically endangered.
The Serena Beach Resort & Spa (SBRS) initiated a Turtle Conservation Project back in 1993. This initiative was the establishment of a turtle nest protection programme, where turtle eggs around the Shanzu Bay, Mtwapa, Kikambala and Kenamai beaches are protected and hatched. Furthermore, insecure nest sites found in these marine habitats are brought to SBRS for protection and hatching.
Nest losses due to tidal flooding, predators and human activities are the primary threats to nesting success of sea turtles around SBRS and other marine habitats found in Mombasa. In order to protect the turtle eggs from these threats, hatching cages made of wood and encased with a light-gauge mesh are placed on the beach lawn of the SBRS property. This facility is monitored 24 hours per day by the hotel in order to protect the eggs, detect early hatching and for appropriate maintenance of the cages.
In addition, SBRS recognises that the hatchlings are attracted to light, therefore disorienting them and veering them to the hotel itself when hatching. To rectify this problem, SBRS has dimmed the lighting on the beach to allow the hatchlings to be oriented towards the Indian Ocean.
About Sea Turtles
Sea turtles are reptiles that inhabit the tropical and subtropical seas. The five main species of sea turtles found and conserved near the SBRS area and marine habitats are Green, Olive Ridley, Loggerhead, Leatherback and Hawksbill sea turtles.
Tides play an important factor in the survival of sea turtle hatchlings. A very low tide will make the trip to the ocean difficult for the hatchlings, decreasing their chances of survival due to fatigue and predator exposure.
It is important that the hatchlings crawl on the sand to the ocean themselves in order to make a magnetic imprint in their brains so that they will return to lay their eggs on the same beach once they mature. Having the hatchlings crawl on the sand poses a risk to their lives because of crabs. Staff from the Serena property will make a corridor for the hatchlings by stamping the ground on either side, which causes the crabs to move away.
Guest & Community Participation
At times, the newly laid eggs may have to be relocated to increase the chances of the hatchling survival. SBRS works with a Consultant Naturalist to determine if the eggs must be moved, which is usually a last resort due to the vulnerability of the eggs. The nest may have to be relocated if the eggs are laid below the high tide watermark, on a rocky outcrop, or laid in an area where there is a lot of human activity and poaching.
Incubation is conducted in the presence of the hotel guests under the supervision of SBRS and the Consultant Naturalist. Furthermore, guests are notified of sea turtle hatchings on the property and Hatching Ceremonies are hosted for the guests to experience the beauty of the baby sea turtles making their way to the sea, taking this opportunity to learn more about the species.
In addition, weekly lectures are conducted at SBRS on Tuesday evenings in order to educate guests and the local community about various sea turtle species that exist in Mombasa, the threat of extinction, and how individuals can play a role in conserving sea turtles.
Due to poverty and desperation, the local community (such as fishermen) is still collecting a large number of eggs. Nesting females are also being killed for their invaluable source of protein (oil and meat). Not only are sea turtles threatened by poachers, but also by fishing trawlers using drift nets, collisions with boat propellers and through ocean pollution. SBRS is assisting in the fight against sea turtle poaching by creating awareness and incentives to the local fishermen for the reporting and protection of sea turtles and their nests.
Since inception, 34,881 Green, 35 Hawksbill and 29 Olive Ridley nests have been reported and secured with the help of the local fishermen, beach operators and Kenya Wildlife Service Rangers. During this time, 408 nests and 52,524 eggs have been secured, with 43,691 turtle hatchlings released into the Indian Ocean. Serena Hotels is currently working on taking their Project to the next level, by getting various partners involved to raise awareness and increase their impact on the conservation of sea turtles worldwide.