Turtle numbers diminish as locals hunt them for meat and oil

Hunting turtles for meat is threatening their breeding ground and population, a Kiunga Marine Conservation National Park official has said.

According to officials of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WFF), the turtles are endangered as some communities in Lamu hunt them for food while others use the turtle's oil as medicine.

Hassan Bwana Mkuu, an official of WWF in charge of turtle conservation at Kiunga, said: "Some members of the Bajuni community in Lamu County have a belief that when a man feeds on the meat of a turtle, he gets extra sexual powers and due to that, most of them hunt for the turtles."

Mr Mkuu said the turtles were facing another danger of being killed through pollution of ocean waters and interference of their breading zones.

Highly migratory

The official further said turtles were highly migratory marine creatures and that makes it hard to control them in a restricted zone.

He said their organisation had launched a programme to tag turtles to monitor their movement.

Nixon Orwa, an official of WWF in charge of Lamu, said that a survey conducted by the organisation in collaboration with Kenya Wildlife Service had shown that Kiunga had the biggest population of sea turtles among other marine sanctuaries on the Kenyan Coast.

Mkuu said Kiunga was home to five species of sea turtle.

"In Kiunga Marine Conservation National Park, we have five different spices of turtles that include Green, Hawksbill, Olive Ridley, Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles," he said.