Author Archives: Local Ocean Trust : Watamu Turtle Watch

Helen the green!

Helen was brought to our rehabilitation centre on the 12th of February 2010. She had a spear gun injury on her head which made her to loose orientation in water therefore swimming in circles.  Further examinations through x-ray revealed that she also had lung infections as well as fibropapillomas tumors. Over the last seven months, Helen has undergone an extensive rehabilitation programme which has seen her infections heal. In addition, Helen’s re-orientation progress has been very impressive as she can now swim and dive strongly.

Helen’s road to recovery has been a very successful one and we are looking forward to releasing her soon.



Rehabilitation Centre

The centre is full with eight in-patients which include two green turtle hatching. Please follow us on this site and our facebook page to find out more on the different cases we are dealing with at the Turtle hospital.

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A Walk in The Mida Creek Mangroves
This month, LOT team set out for a routine assessment of the Mida creek mangroves. The devastating impacts of human interference were evident all around us; stumps lay where massive mangrove trees once towered. Numerous treeless patches dot the scenery. A recently replanted patch is now devoid of any vegetation and the few seedlings surviving are heavily infested with barnacles; Lime treatment was experimentally administered to some of the infested seedlings. A reassessment of the trees in a week’s time should produce conclusive results. Fact; A lot remains to be done to save our precious Mida mangrove system.

Mangrove degradation

Data collection
On the Research forum, we managed to complete the third phase of the beach condition analysis. The aim of this activity is to provide a baseline for monitoring the sea turtle nesting areas in Watamu which could be a vital tool in developing conservation and management measures.

Nelly and Matthew during the beach analysis activity

A search to resolve sea turtle poaching…
Sea turtle poaching in Watamu seems to be the same old endless story. LOT team in conjunction with the local fishermen and community groups are working together to resolve this problem which puts these fascinating creatures to the brink of extinction.

Sea turtle poaching zone

More for June!

Beach Development and nesting
June has been an extra-ordinary month for the Local Ocean Team. With the month ending, we cannot afford to forget to mention that our female sea turtles are still coming to nest on our beaches. One of the most recent nests being of a green turtle discovered near structures erected on the beach. It is evident that structures and uncontrolled development on the beaches are a great threat to sea turtles. This nest had to be relocated to a safe place in order to increase its survival rate.

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Hatchlings hatching!
It also overwhelming to highlight that we are continuing to experience more hatching events.

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hatching - hatchling swimming

Sea turtle Hospital
It is sad news that with all this exciting stuff happening at the Local Ocean Trust, we admitted two new patients to our Rehabilitation Centre. We now have four patients in our centre. The two new patients have intestinal tract blockages which could have probably been caused by eating plastics. Sea turtles and other marine life mistake plastics for their food items.

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Hotel talks
With the low tourist season almost ending, we have resumed our hotels’ PowerPoint presentations. These are aimed at creating awareness to both the domestic and international tourists.

Watamu Clean-up
The Local Ocean and the Watamu Environmental Initiative Group organised a much needed cleanup at the Watamu Beach road T junction. This rubbish has been accumulating over the months. Full marks to all who took part as it was a very hard task including removing ‘flying toilets’. LOT’s Athman Abdalla organizes clean ups in the Watamu village area on a regular basis. We still have one side of the T junction to go – the side which is done took a full day with 20 participants! Its not so much the volume but the nature of what they have to pick up. Many thanks to all who took part.

Watamu T- junctionLocal Ocean Trust staff - Athman and NelsonGroup at work!Group photo

June updates

Going on the beach to watch baby turtles hatching is a unique experience. Last week, the Local Ocean Trust team and lucky passers-by witnessed a hatchling release on Watamu beach. We all watched in awe as they came out in an explosion and headed off very quickly to the ocean. They all made it into the ocean. All traffic stopped on the beach to watch them make their long way down to the ocean and swim away.
Hatchling emergenceRush to the seaseeing the world for the first time
In recent weeks, sea turtles and other marine life continue to suffer from the effects the oil gushing unchecked since April 20 from a ruptured wellhead on the floor of the Gulf off Louisiana.
In Watamu, the local sea turtle population especially the green turtles are threatened as a result of poaching for their meat. During a patrolling session, remains of seven green turtles were found.
On the 11th of June, a sea turtle poacher was caught ‘ red handed’ with remains of a green turtle that had just been slaughtered. This was during one of our patrols done in collaboration with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
carapaces of slaughtered green turtlesLocal Ocean Trust team
Fresh turtle plastron and flippersJohn- an Intern from Egerton university ( holding the turtle flipper), KWS rangers and the turtle poacher
Working with the local schools and community
Beach cleanup
On the 12th of June, we participated in a beach cleanup exercise in collaboration with A Rocha Kenya. Over 100 schoolchildren and members of the community took part in the day’s events. Almost half a ton of garbage was collected.
Other recreational activities like games and poems from the schoolchildren made this day worth while.
School children during the beach cleanupGarbage collected 'takataka'Tug of war

Volunteers notes: Eskil Krist

My experience with Watamu Turtle Watch / Local Ocean Trust so far:

“Oh, so nice you are here!” Was the first thing I heard when I arrived. Fikiri was waiting for me so we could release 5 turtles, and that was just the beginning of a busy day…
Trying to predict the day is a challenge, there is a task list written in the morning but you never know. This is Africa, and it’s volunteer work. And I like it!

Releasing of turtles, which are caught in fishermens’ nets, has been my most frequent task so far.
With capturing of vital data and tagging, transport it to the national ark and the best: Set her free, back into the ocean 🙂 And there are so many other things to do and experience!

If you have never been to Africa, find a project of your interest and join it. You will never regret!

Helen’s Recovery

On 12 February, staff here were alerted about a turtle found floating near Malindi. She had a spear gun wound on her head, fibropapilloma tumours on her neck and tail, an infection in her lungs and a lot of algae on her carapace, indicating a very sedentary turtle. We were concerned she lost the ability to dive. Her chances did not seem very good.

An initial set of X-rays were taken in Malindi, which showed that her lung infection was quite bad. For the first few days, she was listless, and we had to feed her a vegetable puree by inserting a tube right down into her stomach. But slowly, she began to get better, and we decided to name her Helen.
In order to assess Helen’s progress we took her for a sea bath to determine whether or not she could swim. Unfortunately, this first outing was not very promising, as Helen swam in circles and could not properly dive under water. She strongly favoured her right side, and swam on a tilt. However, we were happy to see that she was very lively in the water.

After being here for three weeks, Helen finally began to eat on her own and we began to collect her algae and sea grass. This was a huge relief, and we felt a big step forward in her progress. Since then, it almost seems like she is happier and is more active in her tank. We also took her for a second ocean bath. This time her swimming had improved a great deal, though she was still a bit lopsided and was having some difficulty coming up for air. She swallowed some water. Nonetheless, the experience was very promising, and we now believe her release back into the wild will be in the near future.

(photos of Helen to follow shortly!)

A Watamu Arribada

An arribada is a Spanish term meaning arrival. It is used to describe the mass nesting of thousands of turtles.
20081119230739_arribadaedit (5 of 73)
Above is a photograph of an arribada in Costa Rica.

Here along the East African Coast we tend to have one turtle nesting per night, that was till one evening last week.

Tim a volunteer here at Local Ocean Trust/Watamu Turtle Watch gives an account of the night:

In my second week volunteering for Watamu Turtle Watch, I was lucky enough to witness something quite rare. After being roused at around 11:30 pm, I went down to the beach with Fikiri and a fellow volunteer to check out a Green Turtle that had come to nest on the beach. Within a couple of minutes we ran into our first turtle tracks, but the turtle had run into some obstructions, and she did not lay any eggs.

No more than another 200 metres down the beach, we saw another turtle crawling into the ocean, and quickly located her nest. We felt the nest might not be far enough beyond the high tide line so we opted to move the eggs.

As we dug up the nest and found where the chamber of eggs were located, Philip, the night patrolman for WTW alerted us that just a short distance from where we were, another turtle was in the process of laying her eggs. We quickly went to see how she was doing, and were incredibly lucky to watch her lay here eggs one by one into her dug-out nest. I feel quite fortunate to have seen that.

The turtles were not done however. After trans-locating the first turtle’s eggs into a suitable spot, yet another nest was discovered, and the eggs were located. Finally as 4 am was approaching, and we were feeling very tired from a long night, a huge turtle was attempting to dig out her nest chamber. Unfortunately she did not find a suitable spot, and after some time returned to the ocean, having to wait until another night.

All in all, there were three nesting turtles, plus two false crawls that night, and all of this on a stretch of beach no wider than 500 metres.

NB: The photograph comes from another site and is not property of LOT:WTW if you wish us to take it down we will do so.

The Good News and the Bad News

The bad news first, we recieved a very sick turtle last week it was covered in fibropapillomas. These are tumours thought to be caused be a pollution related virus.


The turtles eyes had been taken over by the disease.

It also had growths covering the soft tissues on its flippers and neck. Sadly the disease was too fully blown and we were unable to save the turtle.

Onto the good news!

The same week another turtle was also brought in, it had the disease but not at such an advanced stage.

We scrubbed the turtle clean as it was covered in algae. Sick turtles often have this green coating.


We then operated on the turtle and removed a neck tumour. We’re pleased to say its doing well.

Helen above swimming happily in her tank

Radio Tracking Turtle Style!

On the 8th of January this year George Kalama, a fisherman from Uyombo, found Stumpy in his nets.

We got a call and rushed to the beach where he was entangled. We examined him for any injuries and sadly he was missing half a front flipper. However it was exciting to discover out that he was an adult because we normally find young turtles in our creeks, older turtles tend to live in the open ocean.

We decided as he was an adult we  would work with WWF on their current project. We fixed him up with a satellite tag, a special device which allows people to track him.

It was fixed onto his back with waterproof glue.

The tag is fixed to Stumpy's back

Because he was such a big guy we needed a big team to get him to the beach!

Stumpy is carried down to the beach

Stumpy had to be cooled down with water on his long walk to the sea.

Stumpy gets a cooling splash of water on his long walk to the sea

Follow Stumpy’s progress along with us at

110 Releases

November has been a very busy month here at Watamu Turtle Watch with over 110 turtles released by our catch program. This is the largest number in one month since we started this program 10 years ago! We have had two great volunteers this month who have participated in numerous releases and the last 3 hatching events for this year. It’s always an amazing experience to watch the nests explode and the little hatchlings run down the beach.

This month we also welcomed back Kahindi, our outreach and education coordinator. He has been studying hard and now comes back to us with new skills to bring to his work. All the fisher groups have been eagerly awaiting his return. We are also welcoming Nelly Kadogai as a full time staff member to coordinate the local and international volunteer programs.

December also promises to be another busy turtle month for Watamu and its visitors. We are looking forwad to a Happy Turtle Christmas.