When he receives a call from a fisherman who accidentally caught a turtle off the coast of Kenya in the Indian Ocean, Local Ocean Conservation’s Fikiri Kiponda jumps into his car to rescue her.
The work is a far cry from the 44-year-old’s previous career as an accountant. Now he is dedicated to protecting endangered turtles, which face multiple threats – from pollution to selling for food to traditional medicinal uses and jewelry making.
When Kiponda receives a cry for help, he rushes to examine the turtle for injuries that require treatment at the organization’s rehabilitation center. Then it will be released back to Watamu National Marine Park.
“The moment I tag a healthy turtle and release it back into the sea where it’s supposed to be, the feeling is just overwhelming,” he said.
Kenya has five species of sea turtles. All are internationally recognized as endangered and protected with life imprisonment under local law. Local Ocean Conservation works on basic solutions with local communities. Kiponda and others stop by regularly to discuss the importance of a healthy ocean for livelihoods.
Over 350 fishermen in Watamu have been working with the group for years. In the past, when they caught turtles in their nets, they would often kill them for food, traditional medicinal purposes, or to keep their shells as trophies.
The uptake of plastic in the ocean remains another threat to turtles, creating internal blockages that can be fatal. – AP