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ATN: All About KESCOM

THE KENYA SEA TURTLE CONSERVATION COMMITTEE (KESCOM)

Compiled by David Olendo & Andrew Wamukota

The Kenya Sea Turtle Conservation Committee (KESCOM) was established in 1993 out of a necessity to address the plight of marine turtles in Kenya. Its membership draws from individuals, government institutions, NGOs and the private sector and has a current membership of over 200. It represents a national integrated approach contributing towards global efforts in turtle conservation guided by the following four broad objectives : developing and implementing awareness and research programs, capacity building of turtle conservation groups and local communities, encouraging and enhancing community participation, liaising with conservation partners at the national, regional and international level to promote the conservation of sea turtles. The establishment of the committee followed increased reports of turtle mortality mainly occasioned by fishing activities, poaching and trade in turtle products and a regional acknowledgement that populations were declining not only within the Western Indian Ocean region but also the world over. Initial efforts to implement conservation and management objectives were limited to the Mombasa area (especially the area around the Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve) with the support of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Baobab Trust. Today hotels such as Serena Beach hotel , Club Sun N’ Sand, Voyager and Nyali Beach hotels have joined the effort by adopting turtle nesting beaches, creating awareness to the hotel guests, staff and beach operators on the plight of the endangered sea turtles.

Over time, with increased support from the local community, cooperation of government institutions and NGOs as well as private interests and volunteers, KESCOM has to date established fourteen community-based Turtle Conservation Groups (TCGs) along the Kenyan Coast. The activities of TCGs involve collecting turtle data and information at the ground level and engaging local communities in the conservation process through education and awareness programs, beach patrols and surveillance to protect turtle nests and nesting females, tagging of sea turtles, and fishermen-turtle-release programs. They also participate in beach-clean up events and currently some of them are involved in habitat protection measures mainly focusing on mangrove replanting. The groups include (from south to north-coast); Bodo Turtle Conservation Group, Funzi Turtle Club, Msambweni, Shimoni, Boabab Trust, Kilifi Community Conservation Group, Takaungu, Watamu Turtle Watch, Jambiani, Robinson Island Turtle Conservation Project, Tana Friends of the Marine Environment, Lamu Marine Conservation Project and WWF-Kiunga project. Their activities cover 51% of the Kenyan Coast and adjacent waters.

The data and information collected by TCGs is organized into a national database managed by KESCOM. Between 1997 and 2000 Turtle Conservation Groups in Kenya reported a total of 695 nests (laid within their areas of coverage) containing a total of 64,877 eggs and released a total of 51,217 hatchlings back to sea. For the same period 171 dead turtles were reported to KESCOM with about 85% of mortality cases occasioned by poaching and slaughtering of turtles and fishing activities (mainly trawling and entrapment in set nets). This current status of sea turtle exploitation in Kenya spells a major challenge to conservation and management efforts especially given that a large percentage of mortalities are human caused and mitigation measures partly involve major socio-cultural as well as socio-economic shifts. Furthermore, the legislation which protects sea turtles in Kenya i.e., the Wildlife Act (Cap 376) and the Fisheries Act (Cap 378) does not provide for the protection of habitats within which sea turtles occur except for nesting and foraging areas falling within the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). And the lack of adequate financial and human resources continues to considerably slow the pace of conservation action.

Among KESCOM’s future plan of action is to strengthen its institutional partnerships and stakeholder involvement in conservation. In addition there are plans to support TCGs to identify potential sources of alternative livelihoods and spread out our efforts to other major areas of Kenya’s marine environment within the next few years through engagement of stakeholders in the tourism industry, local communities and donors. In addition plans are already in place to transit to a broader marine conservation program (especially of habitat conservation) utilizing sea turtles as a flagship. Eventually, KESCOM intents to shift actual conservation and management responsibilities to the local people but through a gradual process and play more of a coordinating role.

KESCOM Membership
The various categories of membership are
1 Student member
2 Individual member
3 Organization or cooperate member
4 Life member
5 Honorary member
Annual subscriptions for the financial year (June 1st to July 30th of the following calendar year) are:
1. Student member, Kshs 50
2. Individual member, Kshs 200
3. Organization or Corporate member, Kshs 500 or 2000 respectively
4. Life member, Kshs 10,000
As a member, you can run for office, vote during the annual general meeting as specified under the KESCOM TOR. You are also entitled to a copy of the Kasa News, Jambo Kasa and can participate in KESCOM activities.


Executive Committee:
Chairperson: Dr. Nyawira Muthiga
Vice Chairperson: Gladys Okemwa
Secretary: John Muasa
Treasuere: Sarah Ater
Members to the executive committee:
Mr. Benrick Ogutu
Mr. Mohamed Omar Said
Programs Coordinator: Andrew Wamukota
Contact: Box 84688-80100, Mombasa
Email: kescoms@yahoo.com