Working as a marine biologist with the Conservation Education Society (CES) offered me the chance to work closely with the Olive Ridley Project (ORP) as one of our core partners. Other than our usual education programmes to support conservation education in Kwale county, occasionally, my day starts off with an early morning dive to collect data for the Olive Ridley Project which means diving to look for sea turtles!
Similani is the name of my first new sea turtle entry in Diani’s sea turtle identification database, managed by ORP. I first photographed Similani, a beautiful juvenile green turtle, at the Kongo dive site when I was still getting the hang of photographing sea turtles underwater. It was given the ID code G286. Turtle G286 was later gifted to me for adoption by Joana, the Olive Ridley Project manager in Kenya. Since it was my first, it was a special gift! I shared the adoption with a special person who motivated me to venture into diving, who later named the turtle SIMILANI, after the sacred kaya Mijikenda forest in the coastal region of Kenya.
You might be wondering why we photograph sea turtles underwater?
In-water sea turtle monitoring is still rather new here in Kenya. By simply photographing sea turtles, we can assess population density and abundance as well as studying foraging and developmental habitats. This non-invasive method allows us to study sea turtles as every individual has a unique pattern of scales on their face.
Five species of sea turtles have been documented in Kenyan waters: the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) and the leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea). Of these, green and hawksbill turtles are the only species spotted in Diani and are known to nest in Diani beach. The green turtle constitutes the majority of reported nests, compared to hawksbill nests, while the olive ridley nests are recorded elsewhere in Kenya, particularly in the Malindi-Watamu region.
Stay tuned for our next blog, on how sea turtle identification by ORP works!