Sea turtles' sad fate: from restaurant menus to plastic 'soup'

2017-12-04 22:15


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Watamu - Gently, Kenzo the sea turtle is lowered onto a beach where a scattering of bottle caps, candy wrappers, yoghurt cups and discarded flipflops scar an otherwise idyllic setting.

As its human handlers step aside, Kenzo struggles out of the harness, pushes hard with its flippers on the sand and slides into small waves specked with bits of plastic trash.

Plastic litter

With a final gulp of air, the hawksbill turtle executes a perfect butterfly stroke and disappears into deeper water - a rare lucky escape for one of Kenya's sea turtles, increasingly under siege from humanity's plastic binge.

Dozens of the endangered creatures need rescuing every year around the coastal town of Watamu, where plastic litter accumulates in the Indian Ocean and the beach from as far afield as Indonesia, Madagascar and Yemen, according to the product labels.

Most common are bottle tops, but there are also cigarette lighters, toothbrushes, food containers, different lengths of string, drinks bottles and of course, the ubiquitous plastic shopping bag.

Turtles confuse these items, bobbing and fluttering about in the ocean currents, for jellyfish or other prey. To their peril.

Basically starve

"It causes a blockage... but they're still hungry so they keep eating and it compounds, compounds, compounds and they explode on the inside," said Casper van de Geer, manager of Local Ocean Conservation, which runs the Watamu turtle rescue.

"Or they are in such pain that they recognise that they have to stop eating and they basically starve," he said as he repeatedly bent down to pick up one piece of beach litter after the other.

Read more on:    kenya  |  marine life  |  animals

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