Out of the seven species of turtles worldwide, Kenya is home to five. The leatherback, loggerhead, olive ridley, hawksbill and green turtle. Here in Mkwiro and around the Kisite and Mpunguti Marine National Park we are very fortunate to be able to see turtles on an almost daily basis.
Local residents are usually Greens or Hawksbills which can be seen, or heard, from the research boat as its head breaks the surfaces and a gasping breath can be heard. However once in the water snorkelling one of the transects scattered through the marine park, when you’re in the turtles territory, is when they are at their most majestic and awe inspiring.
|Most turtles have unique markings on their shell|
Since GVI have been in the Mkwiro area and working on the marine programme, we have been collecting data on turtle sightings. Part of this data is taking underwater photos which we are now using to identify certain species, mainly Greens and Hawksbills.
Some resident turtles here at Kisite can be identified by distinctive markings such as scarring or shell colouration. One particular turtle is known for its characteristic lighting shaped scar on its shell, it has been aptly named ‘Harry Potter’. These turtles can then be compiled into a catalogue similar to what we use when identifying dolphins. Once new pictures are taken this is compared to the catalogue and identified as a resident turtle or a new sighting. It can give us an insight into what kind of turtles the Marine park is attracting and if they are sticking around. We can then start to correlate the turtle movements throughout the year including migratory patterns and life cycles. This identification method is known as mark-recapture; it is a less invasive technique than tagging and artificial marking and has effectively been used for many years with the local dolphin populations.
|Rebecca Marshall- Conservation Intern|