Two decades of community-based conservation yield valuable insights into marine turtle nesting ecology

Casper H. Van De Geer*, Annette C. Broderick, Matt I.D. Carter, Athuman Abdallah Irei, Fikiri Kea Kiponda, Joseph Kiptum, Joe Ngunu Wandiga, Mohamed Omar, Nicola Parazzi, Hannah Sawyer-Kerr, Sam B. Weber, Ricardo Zanre, Brendan J. Godley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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For the Western Indian Ocean region, there is a significant knowledge gap regarding marine turtle nesting on the continental coast of East Africa. Here we present results from a long-term (2000-2020) community-based monitoring programme in and around Watamu Marine National Park, Kenya, covering 30 km of coastline (c. 6% of the national total). Conservation actions effectively protected nesting turtles and resulted in a near-total cessation of illegal egg harvesting in Watamu Marine National Park. Collected data indicate this is an important marine turtle nesting index site in Kenya and the wider region. Green turtle Chelonia mydas nests were most common (95%), followed by olive ridley turtles Lepidochelys olivacea (4%), with occasional nests of hawksbill Eretmochelys imbricata and leatherback turtles Dermochelys coriacea. Clutches per season increased significantly over the 20-year monitoring period for green turtles (50%) and showed a positive trend for olive ridley turtles. Watamu remains an area at risk from human pressures such as coastal development. Clutch distribution along the Watamu Marine National Park beach has shifted over time, probably because of coastal development and disturbance. Illegal take of adults and eggs continues in areas north and south of the Watamu Marine National Park, possibly slowing rates of recovery. Clutches deemed at risk were moved to a safe location within the National Park, and hatching success was high. Continued conservation efforts, including wider engagement with stakeholders to reduce human pressures, are needed to ensure the perpetuation of this nesting site.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
Early online date12 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Jan 2024


  • Chelonia mydas
  • Grassroots
  • Green turtle
  • Kenya
  • Lepidochelys olivacea
  • Nesting
  • Olive ridley
  • Sea turtle


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