The Threat to Sea Turtles
Few years ago, the waters of Mnemba Island were the home of dozens of Green & Hawksbill turtles, however, nowadays only few remains. Sea turtles have an important role in the marine ecosystem. They maintain marine habitat healthy and balanced the food web by controlling the abundance of other species. Despite being illegal in Zanzibar, local communities are still killing them for their meat.
Our Sea Turtle Release Project
We came with the idea to release sea turtles around Mnemba Island with the hope to restore the population in the region. We started this project in collaboration with Nungwi Mnarani Aquarium, located in the North of Zanzibar. This center take care of injured sea turtles before releasing them.
On December 14th, we successfully released six Green Turtles in Mnemba Conservation Area with the help of Nunwgi Mnarani Aquarium.
Releasing turtles without addressing the causes of the problem doesn’t make much sense of course. That’s why Under The Wave is organizing meeting with the chiefs of the neighbouring villages, Ministry of Fisheries, Mnarani board members & fishermen on a regularly basis. Local communities are all well aware of the importance to protect the turtles, but convincing them not to catch/eat them will be a long process that takes time and most of all: education. We will continue to organize meetings on sea turtle conservation in all the villages facing Mnemba Island.
Several releases around Mnemba are planned throughout the year.
Sea turtle population around Mnemba Island have never been studied before. In order to protect them in a more efficiently way, we will need to estimate the population. We will start a tagging and a photo identification project.
It is very important to tag turtles before releasing them. It will allow any organization to identify them individually. We will use the flipper tagging, it can provide lot of information such as their movement patterns, individual growth rates & reproductive life history.
However, the only company that have the competence to tag them is located in mainland, this is why we are going to La Réunion, to get trained and get the equipment for tagging the sea turtles. Tagging sea turtles is only be possible when we release them or when a female turtle come nesting on the beach.
Every single turtle has a specific pattern on their cheek that allow us to identify them. We are using a specific methodology using the scutes of both cheeks of all individuals in order to attribute a specific number to them. The only material we need for the turtle identification are moderate quality photos of the turtle’s cheeks that can be taken by anyone. We asked all the dive and snorkeling centers of the North-East of Zanzibar to send us any pictures taken in the area. It will help us estimate the turtle population around Mnemba Island.