Duration: January 2020 - now

About the project

Threatened sea turtles

Several years ago, the waters of Mnemba Island were home to dozens of Green & Hawksbill turtles. 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. They control the abundance of other species. Local communities are killing turtles for their meat and eggs. Although this is illegal in Zanzibar. Only one in 1000 to one in 10.000 sea turtles reaches adulthood.

Every two to 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, their life in the sea is harsh. They have to avoid seabirds and fish, as well as human hunting.

Adult turtles face a lot of threats around the world. In Zanzibar, they are killed for their meat. The eggs are also 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.

How Sea Turtle Hatchery at Melia Hotel helps the turtles

In 2020 Melia Hotel and Under The Wave collaborated to build a Sea Turtle Hatchery. This is a sanctuary for sea turtle nests. Local communities around Matemwe help us 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.

We want to maximize their chance of survival by minimizing human interference. About 52 nests per year are relocated and protected. This represents approximately 5.200 hatchlings. Melia Hotel helps Under The Wave by guarding the hatchery day and night to protect the eggs from poachers.

The beach is investigated every week. We look for turtles, turtle tracks and turtle nests. Our guide Makame, marine biologists of NGO Under The Wave, and the volunteers of World Unite relocate new nests to our turtle hatchery at Melia Hotel.

Baby turtle videos

Getting local communities involved

In a monthly 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.

Structural change in the mindset of the Zanzibar community starts with the young generation. This is why we built our Environmental Education Program. At several schools children are taught topics regarding marine education. Like the unique role turtles play for the environment. And why it is important not to kill them.

The Sea Turtle Photo Identification (ID) Program is our newest project! We collect all the data of sea turtles form Zanzibar and Tanzania. This helps us get a complete understanding of the turtle populations in the country. Over time we will identify lots of different turtles to investigate their behavior and their conservation needs. The data is shared with the Ministry of Fisheries and Ministry of Blue Economy of Zanzibar to work on a better future for the turtles together.

Do you want to help to restore the turtle population in Zanzibar? You can get involved by donating to the turtle hatchery.