How the boy who feared Sea Turtles embraced the Iconic species | WWF Kenya

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How the boy who feared Sea Turtles embraced the Iconic species

“My home is Mkokoni in Lamu. It is where I was born, grew up, went to school and fell in love with the ocean. My father is a fisherman I would accompany him for fishing expeditions. My first was when I was only seven years old and it became routine every school holiday.


The contrast between the ocean then and now is huge, there was less trash and more fish, a fishing expedition wasn’t complete without spotting a turtle, that’s not the case anymore, you will probably come across heaps of trash before you encounter one. The health of the ocean has really deteriorated my father like most fishermen are catching less and less fish every day. 
 
Growing up, internet was unaffordable or there was no access, there were no televisions and very few people had radios, so every night before bedtime we would gather around the fire place for story telling episodes by my dad or grandfather. The folklore around turtles painted a marine creature, who was not only feared but, marred with superstition. We were told stories of how their many eggs would hatch into various reptiles: like lizards, chameleons and even poisonous snakes. There were stories also that they could turn into ghosts.
 
After I sat my high school exams I joined a group of volunteers who were working to save sea turtles under a WWF-Kenya project in Kiunga. The move was my turning point.  Through awareness creation my father, his friends, my community and fishermen are more aware about their importance in the ocean’s health.   
 
My dad now knows the danger fishing nets pose to them, how they drown if trapped, coral reefs health, he has become a turtle warrior. He is now a member of a marine conservation trust. He now values them more and understands their contribution to the ocean’s health.
 
Back then there were a lot of sea turtles, at the Mkokoni beach, they would come to mate, feed and lay eggs, you will be lucky to spot one or two during the nesting season in the entire Mkokoni location.  They have relocated to an unoccupied island called Rubu due to human activities, disturbance and plastic pollution.
 
It has been a decade of spearheading sea turtle conservation. As a Marine project officer at WWF-Kenya my key role is enhancing collaboration by strengthening community participation through; beach monitoring, nest verification, translocation, and data collection.
 
If I wasn’t given an opportunity by WWF, I would still be living with my childhood fears and would never have become a champion. So, I work with school children and university students, with the sole purpose of imparting the right information and in turn mold future environmental champions.” Hassan Bwanamkuu Mohamed, Marine project officer – WWF-Kenya.
 
WWF-Kenya is enhancing collaboration in sea turtle conservation through strengthening community participation, creating awareness in schools and universities, as well as enhancing the capacity of fishermen and government fisheries departments to reduce use of unsustainable fishing gears to deter targeted harvesting and reduce sea turtle by-catch.