Kenya tries to balance turtles and tourism In this Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016 photo, local ocean marine scouts who are trained on sea conservation by Local Ocean Trust, carry a rehabilitated turtle from their Watamu centre on the Kenyan coast to release back into the Indian Ocean. (AP Photo/ Ilya Gridneff)
Kenya tries to balance turtles and tourism
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A turtle drags itself along a white sandy beach. It splashes through the gentle warm Indian Ocean. Then it vanishes with a plop. It had just become one of 13,750 turtle success stories on a stretch of Kenyan coastline that is under pressure from developers.
 
Kenya is striving to strike a balance. The country is developing its 330 miles of coastline for a billion-dollar tourism industry. It will employ a half-million people. At the same time, it is preserving the environment that attracts those visitors. As the East African nation does so, some experts say that turtles are key. That is because they are so picky when it comes to laying eggs. If the right environment is maintained for them, then things are going well.
 
Kenya's record is mixed in protecting endangered turtles. But now it is going pretty well, a top wildlife official says.
 
One of several sore spots for conservationists and locals is a hotel of former Renault F1 tycoon Flavio Briatore.
 
The dispute centers around Briatore's Billionaire Resort. It is on Malindi beach and has a 100-meter concrete seawall to protect the property and guests from the elements.
 
Malindi resident David Kirk said the resort has been an "absolute environmental disaster."  He said forests full of nesting birds were destroyed. Soil was eroded. The seawall prevented turtles from coming ashore to lay eggs.
 
Resort general manager Stephanie Ravessoud said the seawall's construction followed all government requirements. She said the seawall respects the environment.
 
"Erosion has been there for decades. Everybody knows that sand in our area was being washed away long before the building of our wall," she said.
 
Marine biologist Casper Van de Geer said turtles need quiet, sandy beaches to lay eggs. Large tourist resorts or housing developments disturb that process.
 
"Light and noise scare them off," he said. "They lay their eggs above the high water mark. The nest has to be warm and above the water. So erosion affects that."
 
Local Ocean Trust runs a rehabilitation center in Watamu that Van de Geer manages. Sick or injured turtles are nursed back to health. The group also compensates fishermen for turtles caught in their nets or found sick or injured.
 
"A big adult turtle can fetch up to $500 on the black market," Van de Geer said. "Fishermen earn about $100 a month, in a good month. So one turtle is almost half a year of work.
 
"Turtle conservation is crucial because it also protects the habitat for thousands of other species, including sharks, dolphins and whales," Van de Geer said. "By protecting turtles, you are protecting beaches, mangroves, open ocean, reefs and sea grass. (It) is virtually every ecosystem in the tropical ocean."
 
Dr. Richard Leakey is the chairman of the governmental Kenya Wildlife Service. He said that while tourism and humans have invariably affected the environment, locally run projects on Kenya's coast have sustained endangered turtle populations over the past 10 years.
 
"The situation these days is much better," Leakey said. "We still have problems with turtles getting stuck in trawler nets. But we've seen very positive signs regarding turtle numbers."
 
The Local Ocean Trust has rescued and sent turtles back to the ocean 13,750 times over the past 20 years of working in Watamu. The figures are according to Van de Geer. A turtle tagged in Watamu was later found in the Chagos archipelago. That is 2,300 miles away, he said.
 
"From Mozambique, to Australia, to India and Thailand, we all have a stake in this," he said. "The beach here has an impact on the entire ocean, that's the weird and amazing thing about turtles."
 
Of species found in Kenya, the Hawksbill turtle is critically endangered and the Green turtle is endangered while the Leatherback, Olive Ridley and Loggerhead turtles are vulnerable to becoming extinct, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
 
"Despite our efforts, man remains the turtle's most serious enemy," Van de Geer said.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is it in Kenya's best interest to balance turtles and tourism?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (53)
  • kaleyc-pla
    3/16/2016 - 02:50 p.m.

    This article discusses the efforts to protect wildlife, particularily turtles, around resorts in Kenya. Over the past years, Kenya's enviornmental protection has had ups and downs, but the Kenya Wild Life service is working to improve the program. By protecting the turtles, many other species will also be positively affected.

    This is very important to preserve the habitat of wildlife, and to ensure that tourism doesn't destroy the nature in areas with high tourism. According to the article, over 13,000 turtles have been saved due to these efforts, and the program will continue to save more turtles and preserve wild life.

  • aliviac-pla
    3/16/2016 - 04:05 p.m.

    Kenyan coastline is under pressure from developers. They are trying to strike a balance. The country has a billion-dollar tourism industry with its 330 miles of coastline. Even with the tourism they are trying to preserve the environment. Some experts say that turtles are the key to doing that. If the right environment can be contained for them then things will go well. Although in the past kenyas have a mixed record with protecting endangered turtles, they seem to be going well now. The turtles need quiet sandy beaches to lay their eggs at with is hard with the large tourist population.

    This is engaging for society because this is preventable and something that's going to take more effort than a just a few people. It's important that people know about this so they can try to avoid the areas that the turtles are nesting and also leave the turtles to their natural habitats and stop them from be poached from fishermen. An effort to keep the turtles protected is going to take the effort of many people so it’s important that people do try and help out Kenya as much as they can and protect the turtles and their habitat.

  • alyssas-kut
    3/16/2016 - 08:19 p.m.

    This is a great way to help turtles and the environment, but they also mentioned torisum so they want to exploit the turtles.I cant really tell actually its kind of vauge when they talk about torisum...

  • dashiellg-3-bar
    3/17/2016 - 12:51 a.m.

    Kenya's best interest is to balance tourists and turtles because one is very popular and the other is near extinction. According to marine biologist Casper Van de Geer he said that turtles need quiet and dark place to lay their eggs and if there is a large number of tourism that is not going to happen. Also there is a black market for selling turtles at very high prices, so many people will catch them illegally. I thought this article was very interesting because I saw a movie called "Racing Extinction" which was the same as this article.

  • kyleyc-kut
    3/17/2016 - 07:57 a.m.

    No!! I love turtles! They are my favorite sea animal (are they considered sea animals? I don't actually know to be honest...)

  • GigiSylvester-Ste
    3/17/2016 - 01:18 p.m.

    Turtles are actually more important than i thought. I didn't know they were needed to protect certain habitats.

  • monah-mur
    3/17/2016 - 04:25 p.m.

    who, what, where, why, when, how does the turtle get endangered?
    why would a company have there place on a beach, where turtles leave there eggs and want to hatch there eggs?

  • tylera-1-bar
    3/17/2016 - 07:51 p.m.

    It is Kenyas best interest to balance tourism and turtles because they will make money by doing so. By keeping turtles alive the tourists will go to kenya. I chose this article because I love turtles.

  • taylorl-3-bar
    3/18/2016 - 01:29 a.m.

    This is a great way to help turtles and the environment, but they also mentioned tourism so they want to exploit the turtles. I chose this article because I think it's unfair to the turtles. I don't really know if it's unfair to tourism but the turtles need to live.

  • sheridanm-6-bar
    3/18/2016 - 03:03 a.m.

    It is Kenya's best interest to balance turtles and tourism because tourism brings in money and jobs and turtles are part of Kenya's ecosystem, which needs to be preserved. By protecting the turtles many other species will be positively affected. "Turtle conservation is crucial because it also protects the habitat for thousands of other species, including sharks, dolphins and whales." An eviromentalist states this near the end of the blog. I enjoyed this article because I liked that the country was making an effort to balance tourism and the animal life that will be affected, instead of not caring about the envroment.

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