1995 Annual Report
The national marine parks and reserves were the focus of much attention in 1994-95. The primary objective was to improve management strategies and systems. KWS needed especially to resolve the difficulties of revenue collection, which were significantly impinging on wardens' and rangers' time, preventing them from exercising important conservation and control measures.
Community Assists Sea Turtle Conservation
The results of KWS's November 1994 comprehensive aerial survey of sea mammals, sharkd and turtles have been used to formulate action plans for the conservation of various marine creatures including an increasingly rare sea mammal, the dugong, and the sea turtle. Watamu Marine National Park supports a relatively high population of turtles in comparison to Mombasa, Malindi and Diani. The turtle's habit of laying eggs on land in unguarded nests makes both eggs and hatchings vulnerable to poaching and disturbance. The commercial value of the turtles' eggs, shells and flipper skins as food, medicine and ornaments and the general popularity of their meat and oil makes them highly endangered. KWS, the Fisheries Department, the Coast Development Authority, the Baobab Trust and other interested parties formulated a turtle conservation project to sensitize local communities. Under this programme, local residents, especially fishermen, are asked to report and safeguard any nests they come across. An incentive scheme provides the person or group who reports a nest and protects it until the hatchlings return to the sea with a small financial reward.
In Mombasa and Diani the scheme has been
As soon as the hatchlings are three or four
KWS chose to implement a trial beach-management strategy in Mombasa Marine National Park. As the most popular marine park in terms of year-round visitor numbers, Mombasa has particular problems with revenue collection (no single entry is possible with a marine park, and the park has a 20-km access area). With 90% to 95% of management activities centred on revenue collection, the staff's ability to conserve and manage wildlife was severely hampered.
Under the pilot scheme, the method of revenue collection changed. Rather than charge an entry fee, KWS introduced the concept of a bednight fee per visitor to the marine park/reserve area. The bednight fees are collected by local tourism operators according to the length of each visitor's stay and turned over to KWS. Under the new system, which will be extended to the other marine parks and reserves, revenue collection is universal, and every visitor to the coast participates in conservation of the ecosystem.
The pilot scheme in Mombasa, which ran from October to December 1993, was extremely successful, yielding an increase in revenue of 80%. Most operators supported the beachmanagement fee system, particularly boatmen, who previously had to include the US$ 5 park-entry fee in their charges, leaving very little profit margin on the short-distance trips offered to tourists for a set fee. Beach traders also backed KWS's efforts to eradicate beach harassment by unlicensed touts, which has begun among tourists. Isolated but strong opposition from certain hoteliers however, has delayed coastwide implementation of the beach-management fee scheme.
As a result, the importance of community relations and co-operation with both residents and operators once again came to the fore. Community education and the need to support tourism with educational materials, talks and visitor information were identified as priorities. KWS marine park wardens regularly attended local community forums and supported and assisted self-help projects that will conserve the ecosystem and benefit local people.
Once the beach-management fee issue is resolved, KWS will be freed to provide stronger enforcement of the marine code, preventing damage and erosion of coral and marine wildlife, exercising tighter control on water pollution and litter, and introducing more comprehensive conservation and ecotourism development services.
Mida Creek Community Mangrove Rehabilitation Project
The marine parks and reserves at Malindi and Watamu border some of Kenya's most famous and popular stretches of beach and are fringed by important terrestrial and mangrove forest ecosystems. The mangrove belt, which provides breeding grounds for many of the marine species that feed and support the coral reef, is especially important to maintaining the parks and reserves' health and biodiversity.
Trees grown in the mangroves' semisaline water have special properties. When harvested, their wood is virtually nondecomposing due to its high mineral content. Because it is unattractive to insects, termites or bacteria, such wood can remain intact for fifty to one hundred years, making it a prized building material. The same high mineral content produces a fierce heat when the wood is burned, so mangrove poles are widely used in local industry, particularly to fire limestone for construction. As a result of their important market potential, the mangrove forests are increasingly threatened.
The mangrove forest of Mida Creek, Watamu, falls within the reserve as a conservation buffer zone, but despite this protection, the forest is under threat from pollution and deforestation. Co-operation on litter collection and better control of sewage and effluent discharge by local water authorities and tourism operators has improved conditions, but perhaps the most significant protection has come from the involvement of local communities in mangrove reafforestation programmes nurtured under the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between KWS and the Forest Department.
In 1994, the local community in Mida Creek asked KWS to support its efforts to restore its mangrove forest. KWS responded by challenging community leaders to design their own programme to collect seeds from the mangrove forest and raise seedlings for replanting. KWS was to provide technical advice on seed collection, propagation and replanting techniques.
In March 1995, the community set up three self-help co-operatives: Viriko Women's Group, Vimoyoni Men's Group and Mida Primary School Environmental Club. Each collects seed pods for its own nursery. By June 1995, more than 10,000 seedlings had been replanted in the mangrove with a 90% success rate.
In response to this success and commitment, KWS, with funding from the Netherlands government, donated the self-help groups buckets, spades, wheelbarrows, bicycles and textbooks on mangrove care and propagation worth Kshs 40,000.
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