Threatened sea turtles
Several years ago, the waters of Mnemba Island were the home of dozens of Green & Hawksbill turtles, yet nowadays only a few remain. Sea turtles have an essential role in the marine ecosystem: they keep marine habitats healthy and balance the food web by controlling the abundance of other species. Local communities are killing turtles for their meat and eggs, which is illegal in Zanzibar. Only one in 1000 to one in 10.000 sea turtles reaches adulthood.
Every two or three years, female turtles come ashore to lay between 50 to 200 eggs (depending on the species). They dig a cavity on the beach and nest at night, during high tide. After 50 to 60 days of hatching, the baby hatchlings crawl towards the ocean in the hour following their birth. After 20 to 35 years, when they have reached sexual maturity, the hatchlings will return to this spot to lay new eggs. In between, life in the sea is harsh, they have to survive seabirds and fish, as well as human hunting.
Adult turtles are facing a lot of threats around the world. In Zanzibar, they are being killed for their meat, but also the eggs are actively poached. It is crucial to help turtle nests to hatch to guarantee the next generation of turtles and save the population in the region.
Sea Turtle Hatchery at Melia Hotel Zanzibar
In 2020, Melia Hotel and Under The Wave collaborated to build a Sea Turtle Hatchery: a sanctuary for sea turtle nests. We involved the local communities around Matemwe to help us to locate the nests on the beaches on the north-eastern part of Zanzibar. Marine biologists safely transport the nests to the turtle hatchery. Here the eggs are protected against poachers and natural threats. Our goal is to maximize their chance of survival by minimizing human interference. We are relocating about 52 nests per year representing approximately 5.200 hatchlings. Melia Hotel helps Under The Wave by guarding the hatchery day and night to protect the eggs from poachers.
How we improve the turtle population in Zanzibar
Turtle Patrol: every week we investigate the beach, looking for turtles, turtle tracks and turtle nests. Our guide Makame, our marine biologists of NGO Under The Wave and the volunteers of World Unite relocate new nests to our turtle hatchery at Melia Hotel.
Every month we organize a meeting with the chief of village and the fisherman of the villages around Matemwe. We emphasize the importance of marine conservation, we discuss the illegal killing of the turtles and egg poaching and we answer the questions of the fisherman.
If we want to realize a structural change in the mindset of the Zanzibar community, we should start with the young generation. Therefore we built our Environmental Education Program. At several schools we teach topics regarding marine education, like the unique role turtles play for the environment and the important reasons not to kill them.
The Sea Turtle Photo Identification (ID) Program is our newest! This project collects all data of Zanzibar and Tanzania to get a complete understanding of the turtle populations in the country. Over time, we will identify lots of different turtles and learn more about them, their behavior and their conservation needs. These data will be shared with the Ministry of Fisheries and Ministry of Blue Economy of Zanzibar to work on a better future for the turtles.
Do you want to help to restore the turtle population in Zanzibar? Send your donation to the Turtle Hatchery! Many thanks!