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, January 28, 2010

GVI and KESCOM efforts in Funzi Island

Funzi Island is a prime undisturbed island situated off Kenya’s coast, an hour south of Mombasa, and the site of many Green turtle and Hawksbill turtle nesting beaches. These species are classified as endangered and critically endangered respectively by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

Sandy beach in Funzi Island, where marine turtles lay their eggs

However, Funzi Island is currently under no protection and has no environmental status from government agencies to conserve the key habitats it hosts, including mangroves, coastal forests and turtle nesting beaches (Wamukoya, Kaloki and Mbindo, 1995) and a recent article has highlighted that, despite conservation efforts, the turtle population in Kenya, and specifically around Funzi Island, has been continuing to decline between 1998 and 2004 (Wamukota and Okemwo, 2004.) Around 2000 people live on Funzi Island and are reliant on the ocean for a living, generating their income from fishing or, for a small proportion, tourism.

On Funzi Island, locally managed projects are headed by The Kenya Sea Turtle Conservation Committee (KESCOM) and carried out by Funzi Turtle Club. Projects run by this community based organisation include beach clean ups, turtle tagging and release programmes, night beach patrols to prevent poaching and mangrove planting – they are also developing ecotourism prospects to increase awareness of and attract visitors to the island.

Douglas from KESCOM during an environmental class

GVI supports KESCOM and Funzi Turtle Club in their aims to promote sea turtle conservation and now has two conservation interns placed there permanently to develop a marketing strategy to promote the eco-tours and locally made products offered here and to pioneer a recycling programme on the island. GVI has also providing education and training for members of Funzi Turtle Club on coastal conservation, turtle and dolphin identification, morphology, behaviour and conservation and mangrove ecosystems. The next stage of lectures will be given in February 2010, on local terrestrial flora and fauna, specifically primate and bird species in the forests, and on the marketing, advertising and budgeting aspects of managing the ecotourism project.

It has been a true pleasure to get to know and show this island, its people and conservation efforts to GVI volunteers and enable them to participate and contribute with ideas and projects.