ORP Kenya

Kenya is a vibrant East African nation with a population of 54 million. It covers 580,367 sq km of savannah, lakelands, the Great Rift Valley, and mountain highlands, along with bustling cities. While Kenya is famed for its scenic landscapes and vast wildlife preserves, Kenya is also home to some of Africa’s finest beaches along its 536-kilometer coastline on the Indian Ocean.

Kenya’s extensive coastline features diverse marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, mangrove forests, and seagrass lagoons, fostering rich biodiversity.

Further offshore, migratory corridors provide habitats for large marine animals like humpback whales, whale sharks, and sea turtles.

Sea turtles nest on Kenya’s beaches, and several initiatives protect nesting females and their nests during the reproductive season. However, limited data on foraging and developmental habitats of sea turtles along Kenya’s coast and sea turtles migrating out of Kenya obstructs our understanding of the overall health and threats to these populations.

About Kenya’s South Coast

Green turtle on reef, Diani Beach, Kenya. Image.
A green turtle on a reef in Diani Beach.

Kenya’s south coast boasts a highly significant marine and coastal biodiversity, which is protected in two main protected areas: Diani-Chale Marine Reserve (DCMR), and Kisite-Mpunguti Marine Mational Park andReserve (KMMNPR).

Whilst KMMNPR was established in 1973 and operates as a fully operational marine park, sadly DCMNR, proclaimed in 1995, has not yet served its intended function due to a lack of proper ecosystem management resulting from difficulties obtaining community support.

Diani Beach

Recently a coastal and marine Trans-Boundary Conservation Area (TBCA) was suggested (UNEP, 2015) to protect the whole of the south coast. This will extend from Diani-Chale Marine Reserve to the southern boundary of Mkinga District in Tanzania. The proposed TBCA provides the opportunity to revitalise the functioning of the Diani-Chale Marine Reserve through direct intervention raising awareness and the establishment of a management presence in the area.

Main Activities & Key Objectives

Sea turtle research in Kenya. Image.
Research on sea turtle populations include measuring their size.

ORP initiated sea turtle research and conservation activities in Kenya in late 2018, primarily focusing on the Diani-Chale Marine National Reserve (DCMNR) along Kenya’s south coast. Utilising diverse monitoring techniques such as snorkelling, diving surveys, drone surveys, and citizen science, we evaluate sea turtle temporal and spatial distribution, as well as abundance.

The data we collect allows us to:

  • Map high-priority conservation areas along the south coastline
  • Identify the major threats that sea turtles face in these coastal ecosystems
  • Develop targeted sea turtle monitoring and conservation activities

Our main aim in Kenya is to advance sea turtle conservation by improving knowledge of their distribution and threats, and improve the protection of their populations and habitats.

Long-term goals of our work in Kenya include using the data collected through sea turtle Photo-ID research to investigate the size, structure, residency, environmental, spatial and temporal trends of sea turtles in Kenya’s coastal habitats. 

Ultimately, we hope to extend our work to other marine protected areas in Kenya, which will allow us to identify sea turtle movements between sites within and outside Kenya’s coastal habitats and marine protected areas.