What you need to know:
- Over the years, he says, there have been numerous threats to marine creatures.
- He noted that the most dangerous part of the lives of these turtles is from the nest to the sea.
For close to 10 years, Roger Jessop, a resident of Jumba La Mtwana in Mtwapa, Kilifi County has witnessed the release of close to 70, 000 turtle babies into the Indian Ocean. Seeing the baby turtles in the race of life from the nest to the shoreline is his top priority and an integral part in maintaining the marine ecosystem.
From his home overlooking the Jumba la Mtwana Beach, Jessop has a vantage location to watch over nesting turtles that come late in the night. He even oversees the release of baby turtles as they hatch. Despite his efforts in conserving nature, Jessop is a worried man over the lurking dangers brought about by human activities that threaten the existence of the turtles.
Over the years, he says, there have been numerous threats to marine creatures. “We have had 150 nests on the beach laid this year alone. Every night the mother turtles have been coming here to lay their eggs. We need guards at night; as there is a constant danger of our turtles being poached for their meat and shell, or having their eggs stolen,” Jessop said.
He noted that the most dangerous part of the lives of these turtles is from the nest to the sea.
“There are have crows, herons, human beings, dogs and crabs. Crabs are the worst predators. Every time the turtles go alone to the sea, they just get killed. From here to the reef they are happy but beyond the reef, they are on their own,” Jessop told Climate Action. The green turtle, the largest species of hard-shelled turtle, is the second largest of all sea turtles and gets up to between three to four feet (91 to 122 cm) long. It weighs between 300 to 350 pounds (136 to 159kg).
Jessop added that their nesting season follows the northeast and the southeast Monsoons, with the peak of nesting for the green turtle between March and June and between December and January for the Hawksbill turtle. “Their favourite time is 2am. They take at least two hours to dig, lay eggs and bury them. They like nighttime, when nobody sees them.
It takes about roughly 20-30 minutes to dig their egg chamber, then another 20 minutes to lay their eggs. Once they have finished, they take another 20 minutes to cover the nest, filling it with sand and tamping it down with their back flippers,” he explained.
He added that the mother turtles are somewhat very intelligent as they usually camouflage where the actual nest is before making their way back to sea. In a single nesting season, females lay between two and six clutches of eggs, each containing 65 to 180 eggs. The clutches are laid approximately every two weeks, and the period between the female nesting season ranges from one to nine years.
“The gender of the hatchlings is also dependent on the temperatures within the nest. If it’s cold then the majority of the hatchlings will turn out to be male, “ Jessop said as he showed the Climate Action team some eggs from the nest. Unfortunately, statistics have it that out of 1, 000 turtle hatchlings, only one or two could reach maturity, which takes about 30 years.
Without sea turtles, marine ecosystems will suffer dramatic changes in oceans that have already been heavily altered by climate change and pollution.
The global distribution of sea turtles underscores their vitality, but humanity’s pervasive impact endangers their collective health.The footprints of our modern behaviours may take generations to wipe away, even with immediate action.
Still, some steps can be taken to make safer the watery dwellings of sea turtles – measuring and tracking turtle health and populations, and protecting beaches and waterways frequented by turtles.