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Releasing baby turtles

 

Talking to WWF legacies team member, Sharon – over a cup of coffee and early Easter eggs – shed light on a rare experience she had whilst on her holidays in Cape Verde.

“Working at WWF doesn’t necessarily mean that you will ever see any endangered species in the wild. Though for me it does mean engaging the next generation with conservation. And that is what led to me seeing baby turtles.”

“Watching them struggle to the water’s edge whilst my nine year old daughter Lily compared them to her turtle adoption toy wasn’t my usual conservation work,”

“Though working in the legacies team does involve thinking about future generations and our impact on the world and marine turtles have survived on Earth for more than 100 million years.”

“Lily’s interest in nature meant that she couldn’t miss the turtle release sign up in the foyer of the hotel in Cape Verde,” says Sharon.

Children holding baby turtles in their hands © WWF-UKChildren holding baby turtles in their hands © WWF-UK

Every year from late May to September, more than 3,000 loggerhead turtles come ashore on Cape Verde’s beaches. One of which is the third most important nesting site for loggerhead turtles in the world.

So on the day after arriving, the family went down to the beach with lots of other children to take part in releasing baby turtles into the wild – part of turtle conservation efforts in Cape Verde.

Sharon explains: “Holding them in the palms of our hands really brought home how tiny they were. They fitted in our hands easily, their underside was leathery and their shells were surprisingly smooth.”

“Watching the turtles’ mad race for the water’s edge and seeing how they were struggling made you will them on”

Baby loggerhead turtles struggle their way to the sea, Cape Verde © WWF-UKBaby loggerhead turtles struggle their way to the sea, Cape Verde © WWF-UK

“That made it even more difficult to see them catapulted back up the beach by the crashing waves.”

“Lily and a few of the other children were intent on helping any turtles heading off course.”

“The experience wasn’t planned as we thought it would be too late in the season to see them but helping turtles on their journey to the sea was something Lily will never forget.”

Turtle facts

Five of the seven species of marine turtles are found in the waters around Kenya

Stretching from the Kenya-Somalia border in the north to the Tana River Delta to the south, the Lamu archipelago is known as the jewel of coastal east Africa. Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its unique culture and rich biodiversity, Lamu is also home to coral reefs, seagrass beds and important wildlife species. Five species of marine turtles – green, hawksbill, olive ridley, loggerhead and leatherback turtles – nest and feed along its beaches. In fact, the turtle nests reported in the Lamu archipelago comprise 50 percent of all turtle nesting reported along the Kenyan coast.

Marine turtles are an important and unique species that act as an indicator of the health of the marine system around them

The threats outlined above could lead to further disappearance of these already endangered – and in some cases- critically endangered species.

So how are we helping turtles?

Much of our marine turtle conservation work in Kenya is carried out in and around the Kiunga Marine National Reserve – a marine protected area in Lamu where we’ve been working for over 10 years.

We’ve been working to promote the long term conservation of marine species such as turtles, whilst ensuring sustainable livelihoods for the local people and responsible management and commercial use of the marine natural resources.

Sharon concludes: “Telling a nine year old that the baby turtle she held in her hand probably wouldn’t survive wasn’t an easy thing to do. Only about one in 1,000 hatchling turtles make it to adulthood.”

“The main cause of the decline of loggerhead turtles is them being netted as by-catch. They are caught accidentally on fishing hooks or entangled in ropes.”

“I hoped that by these children witnessing the importance of conservation work, there would be hope for future generations of turtles.”

You can help increase these numbers by adopting a turtle today.

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