By Ross Owen – Matemwe Manager
Each year at Matemwe, an annual turtle release is planned. Our Matemwe team, staff from the Mnarani Turtle Centre, and hundreds of others join together on the beach to be a part of this very special moment.
The Mnarani Turtle Conservation Center
The Mnarani Turtle Conservation Center is a community-based NGO which was established in 1993 to conserve the population of sea turtles in Zanzibar. Hawksbill turtles are particularly under threat as they have been traditionally caught for their shells. Green turtles face their own threat as well and are hunted for their meat. Both Green and Hawksbill turtles are critically endangered so the protection of these creatures is incredibly important.
Annual Turtle Release
I attended the release of 60 turtles from the turtle center that we support. We have our fishermen bring us turtles that are injured by boats or caught in nets, they are given a reward and if the turtles are injured they are then taken to the center.
We also actively look for nests in unprotected areas on the beaches, where we reward local villagers for the safe hatching of a healthy nest. Some of the turtles that were released on the 20th of February were young hatchlings that were too weak to leave Matemwe’s beach at the time they were rescued. Now that they are strong enough to have a fair chance at life in the ocean, they have been released.
The day starts with seats on the boat being sold to hotel guests for $35 per person, this is revenue that will go straight back into the conservation center. This year we had a turn out of 6 boats, each with 20 guests on board. A great turn out and a good day for guests to be educated in turtle conservation!
We did two separate trips, turtles were transported in containers to the boat, including a 55kg 30year old turtle. She was tagged so that we can monitor her movements in the Zanzibar waters. The first release was for the older turtles into the deeper water, where we released 40 into the water just off the north coast. The turtles were transported with the guests looking after them by pouring water over them and seeing that they were comfortable for their last boat ride to freedom.
The second release was for the young turtles, a year old and younger, these little guys were released on the beach at the north west beach of Nungwi, where there are good feeding grounds for the youngsters.
Watch this video of an older turtle being released – this was such a magical moment. The joy and excitement from everyone involved is infectious and you can really see how much it means to everyone to be a part of this turtle’s journey to freedom.
Doing Our Bit
Plastic waste plays a huge part in the decline of our oceans creatures. Turtles are particularly susceptible to the dangers of plastic straws, there have been countless stories online about turtles who have ingested straws or had them stuck in their noses. It truly is a terrible sight and something has to be done to stop the use of straws and plastic in general. Straws are one of the biggest culprits in the drama of plastic waste. Yes, those innocuous, little tubes we don’t think twice about using.
Even if we were conscientious enough to recycle all our plastic waste, straws don’t cut the grade. They’re too lightweight to make it through a mechanical recycling sorter. They drop through sorting screens and mix with other materials. They’re just too small to separate.
Asilia uses a natural alternative to plastic straws. Our straws are made from organically grown rye. No chemicals or bleaches are used in their manufacture. They’re therefore completely biodegradable and compostable. You can read more about our move away from using plastic here.
Matemwe : A Paradise Island
On the northeast coast of Zanzibar Island, framed by coconut palms and white sand, is Matemwe village and beach, home to Asilia’s Matemwe properties. Privacy and exclusivity rule at this tropical paradise. Home to Matemwe Lodge; Matemwe Retreat; and the ultimate family or group getaway, Matemwe Beach House. There’s the perfect place for you no matter what kind of beach holiday you’re looking for.