Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Thursday, October 29, 2009

First Recorded Turtle Nesting Attempt in Kisite Mpunguti MPA For 7 Years

Around 2000 years ago trade in sea turtle products was observed in the Red Sea and East African coast. Today all 5 species of sea turtles found in the Indian Ocean are endangered, however all 5 species are still thought to be present along the Kenyan coast with Green turtles (Chelonia mydas) reported to nest along the whole coastline. Whilst we know of Green turtles continuing to nest on nearby Funzi Island, turtles haven't been observed to to nest in the Kisite Mpunguti MPA for the last 7 years.

So it was with great joy that recently GVI Kenya heard the great news about a green turtle visiting the small sandy beach on Lower Mpunguti Island. Lily from Coral Spirit Restaurant in Wasini village shared with us the pictures she took while visiting Lower Mpunguti.

Green turtle arriving in Lower Mpunguti island (photo by Lily Angel, September 2009)

This is fantastic news for the Kisite Mpunguti Marine Protected Area, and should contribute to the conservation efforts of GVI and our partner Kenya Wildlife Service. The Mpunguti Islands are known to support an important population of Coconut crabs (the largest and rarest land crabs), nesting sites for the African fish eagle and we know form our research that the surrounding waters are frequently visited by Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, and less so by Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphins. Our snorkel surveys have also confirmed that they represent a feeding area for both Green and Hawksbill turtles. Both local fishermen and Kenya Wildlife Service rangers still recall the days when the turtles came to Lower Mpunguti's small sandy beach to nest, the only suitable site within the MPA. However it had been over 7 years since this was last recorded.

Female Green turtle preparing the nesting site, digging the sand with her flippers (photo by Lily Angel, September 2009)

Green turtle leaving the beach, returning to the sea (photo by Lily Angel, September 2009)

Green turtles typically live 45 to 59 years, a female nesting in 6 or 7 of those, laying around 330 eggs each season, and producing 1900 to 2300 eggs in her lifetime. Factoring in natural predation, fungal infections in nests and embryonic failure rates, it might be expected for a healthy female to mother 1000 to 1900 hatchlings (James R Spotila, Sea Turtles, 2004). This emphasises the importance of a single nest in this region, and although the female is not thought to have laid this time, she may return or it may signal the return of other females. The next crucial step therefore is to take management actions that limit any disturbance to this particular site.

Attempted nesting site (photo by Lily Angel, September 2009)

The historic decline of sea turtles is one of the most cited and best documented conservation issues. Populations have declined 50-70% globally since the 1900s and they recognised as endangered by IUCN, on CITES appendix I and CMS appendices I and II.

Kenya Sea Turtle Conservation Committee (KESCOM) was established to complement governmental action in Kenya to address global concerns for sea turtle populations. GVI volunteers work closely with KESCOM in their conservation efforts, supporting research, education and capacity building.