WATAMU Nov 12th
It was slightly a case of after the Lord Mayor’s Show today. Even so, four turtles were released in the morning, which would have been sold for meat and oil a few years back. The five volunteers and Kahindi, who is in charge of the rehabilitation of turtles which have been caught but are in need of treatment, took two of those which are coming up to release out for a ‘sea-bath’ after lunch. This is a bit like taking them for a walk. A line is attached to one of the flippers and they are allowed to swim around the shallower reef water for half an hour or so. The turtle I was supposed to follow is virtually ready to go, a situation confirmed by the fact that it headed straight off for the open sea at a pace I could not even dream of maintaining. Kahindi had it on the lead and he is a very strong swimmer but eventually he was worn out and had to wind the turtle back in. I know I shouldn’t think this but the animal did seem to be very grumpy when it was brought back out and just sat on the beach in a mood. The other turtle swam gently and peacefully around the reef and the three accompanying human swimmers were not unduly extended. It was quite playful on the beach and Kahindi thinks it may need to go back to sea very soon so that it does not become over-dependant on being fed and exercised. Oxbridge entrance question ‘Discuss the assertion that turtles have different personalities’.
Most of the turtles that are returned to the Turtle Watch come from a few fishing villages. These are, oddly, not very close to the shore. We go to pick up those that have come in with the early morning catch, usually entangled in the nets but occasionally beached. Travelling with Fikiri, who is in charge of this, in the official Turtle Watch vehicle, has taken me to places I would not otherwise have visited in a million years. There are many striking images. Inquisitive, colourfully-dressed, sometimes expressionless, often smiling, always grubby and generally welcoming children. Women pounding maize in pairs, hand-washing in groups, walking in stately uprightness carrying impossibly large loads on their heads, preparing vegetables for the pot and singing harmoniously as they do it all. Occasional groups of older men doing as little as possible and younger ones gathered around a few motor bikes. Chickens, of all shapes, sizes and degrees of health grubbing around the houses. Radios blaring a crackly and unrecognisable tune. Mobile phone numbers charcoaled on the whitewashed parts of walls. It is a genuinely fascinating insight and it is an enormous bonus of the trip to be able to get so close to it.
It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that Kenya is on a ticking population time bomb, even so. The sheer number of small children seems to be overwhelming. How they will all be fed, housed, watered, educated ( whatever the official figures, I am certain that the literacy rate is below what is quoted ), cared for when sick and provided with meaningful employment, at a higher standard than at present in 30 years time, is beyond me. I just don’t see that an annual growth rate of over 3%, bearing in mind that a mere 3% is a doubling of the total in 25 years, is sustainable.
If I am hopeful it is because of people like Kahindi and Fikiri. Their willingness, dedication and industry is remarkable. The ex-pats would also say ‘unusual’. Time alone will tell.