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 and then 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 that employs 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 - and not least of all, the turtles - is a hotel of former Renault F1 tycoon Flavio Briatore.
 
The dispute centers around Briatore's Billionaire Resort on Malindi beach and its 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 and soil was eroded. That is because the seawall had stopped 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, which 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 population over the past decade.
 
"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, according to Van de Geer. A turtle tagged in Watamu was later found in the Chagos archipelago 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 (42)
  • lucasl-3-bar
    3/16/2016 - 07:59 p.m.

    Kenya wants to balance both interests for protecting turtles and the environment as well as its tourism industry because preserving both would keep the country stable and citizens content. As stated by the article, "the country is developing its 330 miles of coastline for a billion-dollar tourism industry that employs a half-million people". Tourism is a major player in Kenya's national economy. Thus, keeping tourism profits contributes to a stable economy. On the flip side, increasing tourism also puts turtles at risk, which is why the Kenyan government is taking steps to preserve the ecosystem. The article was interesting because it juxtaposed industry and economy as well as wildlife preservation and eco-friendliness. It is important too, as governments and citizens must work to keep industry safe for the planet while still productive for human use.

  • deaconp.-tay
    3/16/2016 - 10:14 p.m.

    sea turtles are a huge deal to ocean ecosystems. we need to preserve them or else the whole ocean is in danger

  • dallinp.-tay
    3/17/2016 - 05:45 p.m.

    Kenya is trying to balance out turtles and tourism because their tourism industry gets them lots of money and most of the types of sea turtles that beach and lay their eggs there are endangered or REALLY close to extinction, so why not try to keep the beaches turtle-friendly? They might bring them from the brink of extinction.

  • kailynh.-tay
    3/17/2016 - 06:58 p.m.

    i think this is such an awesome thing for people to focus so much on. the organizations set up are live-saving to these mammals and it means a great deal to the environment and those who adore turtles just as much as the dedicated people behind these large organizations.

  • calebc.-tay
    3/17/2016 - 07:03 p.m.

    Because the turtles are fixing to go extinct if they don't protect them and probably one of that country's biggest industry is tourism because they have such beautiful beaches.

  • billiem-1-bar
    3/17/2016 - 07:40 p.m.

    It is in Kenya's best interest to balance the turtles and tourism because if the turtles were to become extinct it would have a negative affect on the entire ecosystem. In the article, Van de Geer said, "By protecting turtles, you are protecting beaches, mangroves, open ocean, reefs and sea grass, which is virtually every ecosystem in the tropical ocean."
    If they don't protect the turtles then the reason the tourists come will disappear, this means they will no longer want to go there for vacation. So in order to keep the tourists they need to save the turtle environment. I found this article interesting because the turtles have such a big impact on the rest of the ocean. People need to be more aware that they are hurting the environment.

  • madisons.-tay
    3/17/2016 - 08:29 p.m.

    it is there best interest because the turtle numbers are going down and tourists like to see the turtles.

  • annah.-tay
    3/17/2016 - 09:54 p.m.

    I think that he endangerment of turtles is a growing problem, so if they were at a lesser risk there would be little conflict.

  • erino-6-bar
    3/17/2016 - 11:26 p.m.

    It is in Kenya's best interest to balance turtles and tourism because tourism in Kenya is a billion dollar industry yet the reason tourist so commonly travel to Kenya because of the environment. Turtles are especially important because they "also protects the habitat for thousands of other species, including sharks, dolphins and whales," if these turtles disappeared then many other species' population plummet. However, it would not be in Kenya's best interest to end the tourism industry because, as previously mentioned, they earn over a billion dollars annually from tourism.

    I liked this article because I like turtles and I have a friend who is really motivated to do all she can to save the turtles.

  • kayah-4-bar
    3/17/2016 - 11:40 p.m.

    It is Kenya's best interest to balance turtles and tourism because this year is one of Kenya's largest turtle successes, with the number of 13,750 turtles surviving, (paragraph 1). The turtles get scared of noise and light a said in paragraph 10. These turtles could end up leaving Kenya if they are scared away. So it is best for Kenya to balance turtles and tourism so tourist don't scare away the turtles .This article was very unique because there have been many stories about animals lately.

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