Into the Sea- Sea Turtle Conservation at Serena Beach Resort & Spa.

Sea turtle populations are threatened globally. It is estimated that only one in 1,000 sea turtle hatchlings will survive to adulthood. And one may ask, what is the importance of saving these endangered species from extinction? Here is why… According to World Wildlife Fund, the growing fisheries crisis has a ripple effect on the biological, social, and economic state of our world. The demand for fish is high, over 90% of our oceans are already overfished.  Overfishing and other irresponsible practices have led to the degradation of the aquatic ecosystem and food resources therein.

Closer home, Serena Beach Resort and Spa (SBRS) is located approximately 18 kilometers north of Mombasa on Shanzu Beach and has taken various actions to protect the ocean and its marine life one of which is through its sea-turtle conservation initiative. The SBRS sea-turtle conservation initiative was found necessary as marine ecological reports about three decades ago indicated that turtles faced extinction due to nest losses within the next 50 years and this necessitated the CITES (Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species) to list the sea turtles, that SBRS conserve, as critically endangered.

Owing to this and given that SBRS location was identified as one key nesting area and foraging grounds for the rare and threatened sea turtles in Kenya, it started the Sea Turtle Conservation Project in 1993. The property established a turtle nest protection programme where turtle eggs are protected in situ and those from insecure nest sites are relocated to the hatcheries on the North end of the beachfront of SBRS. In order to protect the turtle eggs from threats and predators such as crabs, cats, birds, mongoose and humans, hatching cages made of wood and encased with light-gauge mesh are placed on the beach lawn within the SBRS property. These cages are exposed to normal weather conditions and temperatures of the surrounding environment. It is monitored 24 hours in order to protect the eggs, detect early hatching and proper maintenance of these cages. SBRS Management recognizes that hatchlings are attracted to light, therefore disorienting them and veering them to the resort itself when they hatch. To rectify this problem, SBRS dimmed the lighting on the beach to allow the hatchlings to be oriented to the Indian Ocean.

Since its inception 28 years ago, 560 turtle nests have been protected, and 61,931 Green, Hawksbill, and Olive Ridley sea turtles have been released into the Indian Ocean with an 85% success rate.

Nest losses due to tidal flooding, predation, and human activities are the primary threats to the nesting success of sea turtles. In order to convince the local community to conserve sea turtles, SBRS began a community participatory program through education and implementation of an incentive scheme. This scheme provides cash rewards to the community in return for nest reports and protection. The community reward scheme is entirely funded by SBRS. The resort has also established an educational and awareness program for hotel guests through weekly turtle lectures.

 

What happens during the turtle release?

The tide plays an important factor in the survival of the hatchlings. A very low tide will make the trip to the ocean very difficult for the hatchlings, decreasing their chances of survival due to fatigue and predator exposure.

It is important that the hatchlings crawl on the sand to the ocean themselves in order to make a magnetic imprint in their brains so that they will return to lay their eggs on the same beach once they mature. Having the hatchlings crawl on the sand poses a risk to their lives because of crabs. Therefore, two people will make a corridor for the hatchlings by stamping the ground on either side which causes the crabs to move away, while another person stands in the ocean with a torch held near the surface of the water to guide the hatchlings into the water in order to decrease disorientation from the lighting of the surrounding buildings.

Beaches do not get many nutrients, as sand does not hold nutrients well. However, turtle eggs and leftover shells provide nutrients to sustain beaches. Moreover, seagrass beds grazed by green sea turtles are more productive than those that aren’t. Hawksbill turtles eat sponges, preventing them from out-competing slow-growing corals. Both of these grazing activities maintain species diversity and the natural balance of fragile marine ecosystems. Sea turtles also eat jellyfish, preventing large “blooms” of jellyfish that are increasingly wreaking havoc on fisheries, recreation, and other maritime activities throughout oceans.

Sea turtles are an important tourist attraction on land and during water activities, such as snorkeling and scuba diving – this is an important source of income for many countries worldwide.

Our business co-exists and depends on the eco-systems, habitat, and uniqueness of the culture within the areas we are in. The staff and community connect the thriving marine life to more jobs by attracting more tourists. This connection is very crucial for sustainable tourism.

While poaching of sea turtles at the coast is a major threat to their survival, there is a much larger menace that causes these creatures harm, and its origin is more so inland. Plastic waste has, over decades, become a worldwide issue with only 2% of plastic waste produced is recycled and nearly 300 million tons of plastic produced each year – a significant amount of which will end up in the oceans where it severely affects marine life who get entangled in the plastic or mistake it for food. This knowledge and realization precipitated conscious efforts and initiatives to reduce single-use plastic consumption at all 22 Serena properties in Africa and has already been implemented in a phased manner since 2016, further enhancing Serena Hotels’ commitment to reducing the negative impact on the environment.

In April of 2017, a total number of 2,512 flip-flops, collected from the ocean, were recycled and transformed into Serena Beach Resort and Spa Walk-in Chess pieces. This was done to create awareness on the impact of marine debris and the importance of marine conservation. Joining the rest of the world in the fight against plastic waste, the Resort has implemented the below:

  • Replaced ‘miniature’ single-use bottles of guest amenities (shampoo, shower gel, and lotion) with refillable dispenser bottles. Impact: 52,746 bottles per annum not released to the landfills.
  • Replaced use of plastic straws with bio-degradable paper straws for guest drinks. Impact: 12,000 plastic straws per annum eliminated from the landfill.
  • Replace the single-use plastic mineral water bottles with recyclable glass bottles. Impact: 135,320 plastic bottles eliminated from the landfill per annum.
  • 96,300 single-use plastic bags per annum has been eliminated from the landfill since the ban on the use of plastic bags.

 

For more information about this project please contact:  reservations.mombasa@serenahotels.com and visit our website for more on our sustainability projects and updates.

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