G-Star - Blake quilted overshirt, Faeroes Classic Straight Tapered
G-Star has long shown a strong commitment to eco-friendly fashion through its transparency concerning its production processes and its various projects aiming to preserve the environment and save the oceans. That’s why we decided to shoot the brand’s new collection – with its powerful slogan “Uniform of the Free” – on Tiwi Beach in Kenya, where a special program is in place to protect the region’s sea turtles. We met with Saidi Hamisi Mwaito, one of the monitors at Diani Turtle Watch, to learn more about this vital initiative.
When did you start taking care of turtles?
Since 2015, after getting my training in turtle monitors and collecting data on the beach. I needed to know some of the dangers faced by the turtles, like crabs, dogs and lizards. Crabs can take turtles and put them inside their hole to eat them. We have to protect the turtles until they touch the water, since it is much easier for them to protect themselves when they are in water. They can hide under corals, especially soft corals which have some chambers.
Where do they go when they reach the ocean?
They swim until the reef and go ten or fifteen meters further to look for a place to stay. They feed on sea grass, never on animals.
Do you only have one sort of turtle on this beach?
The green turtle is the most popular species to come and lay its eggs on this beach. But we also have loggerhead turtles.
What is the name of your organization?
I am only a volunteer for Diani Turtle Watch, but I am also very interested in animal welfare and making sure they get food and water. I take care of the Kalabash which have to find special leaves to eat. We don’t want people to damage them because they are very special to us. They like to rest on trees.
Do you also work on plant conservation?
I have training in many areas: turtle monitoring, as well as planting coral and sea grass in the water. You need a lot of money to plant corals, as well as materials like water cement, metal and wires. We plant them directly in the ocean.
Why are corals so important?
Some coral reefs provide a breeding area for fish, and they can also escape from predators within coral. Corals also protect the ocean by blocking water during high tide and minimizing the current.
Do they also guard against sharks?
Yes. Currently, we do not find sharks at less than twenty kilometers from the beach. We only have sunshine sharks, which are only one meter long and do not attack people. We occasionally have white sharks, especially in January. That animal travels around the world and is not dangerous, as they feed exclusively on sardines. They only play with humans when they are fishing or snorkeling without a t-shirt.
I heard there are sharks in Mombasa.
Yes, that’s true. Sometimes big ships throw out food, so sharks gradually start following them until Mombasa.
I also heard the reef has been destroyed in Mombasa.
Yes, because of pollution and climate change. There is an animal that destroys the coral and we call it the crown-of-thorns starfish. If you are the leader of the beach management unit, you have to monitor the coral gardens to search for that animal. I’ve already killed six of them. It is a big fish with a lot of branches and is very poisonous. Once the coral dies from the starfish, it never grows back.
Does this fish come often?
It depends on the community research that is made. We need to know which parts of the coral gardens are going to die and find the reason. Is it because of sunlight? Because of pollution? Because of the crown-of-thorns starfish?
Does the government help you on those projects?
No. Our organization doesn’t even help. It sometimes only gives us motorbike fare to come and see the beach or to relocate. We’re mostly just doing this as volunteers.
Why doesn’t the government help?
It is Diani Turtle Watch’s responsibility to secure funding, but that money goes into the organization, not the monitors. We don’t work full time because we are not employed. We fish to earn money and bring food to our families. I fish on foot because my boat was broken. I’d love for someone to help me find another boat.
What do you think of the government’s actions against pollution?
There are big bags available on each beach to collect all the trash. The bags are not made of plastic or nylon, because the turtles might eat them. When turtles eat plastic, it blocks their blood flow and they get sick.
Is the situation better now?
Yes, I think so, thanks to educational awareness. I go to all the fishing sites to give fishermen some details and ideas, and inform them of the penalties given if the government finds them stealing turtle eggs. You get life imprisonment for it, or you have to pay twenty million Kenyan shillings as a fine. We all come from poor families and can’t afford to pay that kind of money.
What do they do with these eggs?
They eat them. I myself come from the same community and understand their language. I want the best for these fishermen, so I try to reason with them. Some turtles eat jellyfish and therefore are not edible. If you eat these turtles, you will fall victim to their poison. You can kill your whole family that way. It has already happened, and we have lost a lot of villages because of poison turtle meat. Twenty-two people died. In that case, we say: “You are holding your own cross”. Historically, the beach doesn’t belong to human beings. It belongs to sea turtles. If you come here, you have to respect the beach. It is your responsibility to secure the creatures. You can watch beautiful starfish in the sea but don’t remove them from their natural habitat. People usually understand it and go about their activities with respect.
How many turtles survive once they reach the ocean?
We can’t say. Once they’re in the water, they’re on their own and they protect themselves. Sometimes they will all get eaten, other times most of them will survive.
G-Star Raw Graphic 8 Regular R T S/S, Faeroes Classic Straight Tapered
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G-Star Raw – 5622 Worker 3D Straight, Rackam Rovulc UOTF boots
Styling: Armelle Leturcq
Photography: Frank Perrin
Model: Ulysse Darmon