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

Monday, February 7, 2011

Turtle strandings

The end of Week 4 of the first expedition of 2011 finds us here at GVI’s Mkwiro base camp with many positive experiences that other volunteers have been blogging about.

Going out on the boat to survey marine life, we’ve encountered Green and Hawksbill turtles, Bottlenose and Humpback dolphins, and even a black tip reef shark while snorkelling out at Kisite. It has been fantastic to see so many pods of dolphins foraging nearby with calves and juveniles.

This week was, however, also marked by tragedy. Wednesday morning, as we were heading up towards Funzi in search of Humpback dolphins. While on dedicated search a volunteer spotted something bobbing in the distance, so we went to take a closer look. . As we got nearer we saw that it was a turtle but it wasn’t acting at all normally. Usually turtles will swim just below the surface and will only pop their head out to take a breath before lowering back into the water. This one was limp, just floating along. Our captain confirmed it had died. Very recently.

After inspection, we were able to identify it as a Hawksbill Turtle with a 1m shell length. This species is critically endangered and it was heartbreaking to see that the cause of death was that it had tried to digest a plastic bag. Probably confusing a floating plastic bag for its usual choice of jellyfish was a deadly mistake for this unsuspecting turtle. It really brings home the detrimental effect of pollution and littering on the environment, and if we were all to reduce our waste and pick up rubbish each day we could prevent tragedies like this. Since this sighting we have now seen another two dead turtles, both being mature green turtles – cause of death unknown.