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Conservation group conducts weekly beach cleanups to save turtles from plastics

The rising death of sea turtles at the Marereni beach area in Magarini Sub County, Kilifi County has forced a conservation group to conduct weekly beach cleanup exercises to get rid of plastic waste in the area.

According to the Marereni Biodiversity Conservancy (MABICO), a Community-Based Organization dealing with marine environmental conservation, at least 217 turtles have died in the area in the last two years after being choked by plastic wastes disposed at the sea.

The group manager, Daniel Masha said that initially the weekly beach cleanups used to net more than one ton of plastic waste from the shows but the amount has gone down significantly.

“During 2020 we were hard hit because we lost the highest number of turtles and on conducting autopsies, it was discovered that it is the plastics that they consumed that killed them and the plastics were found entangled in their intestines,” he said.

He added that plastic waste ranges from water bottles, jerricans, shoes, fishing nets, sacks and rubber material that are consumed by the turtles who mistake them for food.

It is the marine environmental degradation that gave birth to the 50-member CBO that now boasts of beach cleanups and restoration of the mangrove ecosystem.

Started in 2010 as a team of volunteers, the group has managed to plant 200 acres of mangrove which according to Masha, helps in providing fresh air and save havens for turtles to nest in nearby sand dunes.

Masha added that the plastics are brought to the sea by beachgoers, fishermen in the sea who dispose of plastics, the River Sabaki which washes into the sea debris from up country and the debris washed away from high seas.

“We are not in a human-populated place but the wastes reach our area from far and wide having been washed by waters from upcountry and overseas. We used to collect a ton but the debris has gone down due to our concerted weekly beach cleanups,” he said.

Michael Mwayele, a member of MABICO said that the conservation efforts had proved successful since they have not recorded turtle deaths in recent times.

“We deal with marine sea turtles and mangrove conservation and we are here today to clean the beach so that we can get rid of plastics,” he said.

He added that when they started the group in 2010, they concentrated on mangrove conservation. Still, after discovering dead turtles, they had to research the cause of death which they discovered was brought about by plastic waste at the sea and that is when they embarked on plastic eradication along the beaches.

“We used to discover dead turtles and on conducting autopsies, we find out that they were choked by plastics and that is why we are doing the beach cleanup there is a time we rescued a turtle and on examination, we discovered a plastic material blocking its neck, it is good luck that it survived. We have discovered that it is the plastics that the turtles can’t differentiate from their prey hence they consume and get injured,” he added.

His sentiments were echoed by Happiness Kadzo who said that plastic not only affects the turtles but the health of human beings through air pollution and advocates for safe disposal.

“Plastics affect us too because when it is disposed of carelessly, it affects our health, we cannot do away with it but we must look into safe ways of disposing of the waste. We are enlightening the community on the safe ways to protect the environment,” she added

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