Long long time ago in Mida Creek there lived a mother turtle and her young turtle son by the name Speedie. Mother turtle would on a weekly basis make trips from the ocean to the land for spawning. The strange thing was whenever she would come back home her face would have become red with anger and sadness. This sadness was usually accompanied by lengthy silent moments. Speedie the young turtle observed her mother for days on end but he couldn’t grasp what was amiss with her or the trips she took-he couldn’t read his mother’s mind.
Speedie was hatched on land before he moved to the ocean but since then he has never gone back to land. He could not walk properly on land without support because his legs were not yet strong enough to carry his weight. That meant that Speedie had to spend some more substantial amount of time in the ocean before being able to migrate to and from land whenever he wanted just like his mother. Oftentimes he would stealthily follow his mother en route to land but he would return whenever he saw the ocean-land boundary. She sometimes screamed at his mother to carry him with her, but she would softly caress him and tell him of the dangers that lingered on land that could affect both of them. “When you grow up my son you will be able to traverse these habitats however you like but at the present you can’t. Out there on land are lions and hyenas who prey on us for food and if you cannot defend yourself they will eat you up.” His mother comforted him. Speedie would stare at her mother till she disappeared and only then would he go back home. He would wait for his mother to come back with nice land food but then she would also come back with that angry face. The face, that prompted him to ask why she was so.
“Maa?” Speedie called out to his mother.
“Yes speedie, what is the matter my sweet pumpkin?”
“Why do you always come back home angry and sad, never once have I seen you jovial whenever you come back, why Maa?”
“You won’t understand my son. You are still young and it is complicated.”
“I promise I will understand just tell me.”
“Ok sweetie. Every time I go out on land I lay eggs for your brothers and sisters to hatch, but whenever I go back to check I find them eaten by hyenas and snakes. This is so because humans are clearing the forests for settlement and farming and are using the wood for cooking and building their houses. So I can’t find any suitable spot to hide my eggs.”
“Don’t worry Maa, I’ll help you out when I grow up. I am going to be energetic and I also know exactly what to do.”
Two months later Speedie was able to move both in the sea and on land with ease. He remembered his promise to his mother and he had to actualize it now. He had a plan in mind but he wasn’t sure if it was going to work. So far it was just a blind plan.
One bright sunny day Speedie got out of the water with his plan ready. His mother was friends with Janja the hare. Speedie saw a chance to exploit their friendship for mutual benefit. He knew well that Janja was cunning and he had to be careful so he doesn’t get conned. He hadn’t gone far yet when he had a feeble cry. It was so weak that he thought that person was dying. Speedie went closer and to his amazement found a very young mangrove shoot crying.
“Why are you crying, little guy?” He asked curiously.
“My mother, she is dead. She has been cut. I don’t have anyone to feed me or support me now,” the shoot continued crying.
“Well, don’t worry because am going to help you, I’ll feed you and I’ll support you too. By the way my name is Speedie the boss turtle, your new energetic friend. Speedie quickly fetched some cow dung and water from the nearby farm. He placed the dung at the base of the shoot and watered it.
“Thank you, Mr. Boss turtle.”
“Yah, you’re welcome. So be a good boy and grow up fast,” he said and moved on. Not far from there he met Janja.
“Hellooo too how are you and your mother doing?”
“Great, great, we’ve been great.” Replied Speedie.
“As you have realized the mangroves are disappearing fast, and we have to have a deal to stop this. Am going to bring you high quality curios each week from the ocean and in return you will plant and guard the mangroves so that we can have a safe place for spawning and hatching. I don’t know how you are going to do that but I believe you are cunning enough to know. Do we have a deal?”
“Yah we do, that’s great. What are friends for? I’ll do whatever you want for a portion of your curios,” replied the hare.
Speedie gave Janja three weeks’ worth of curios for a start and went back home, he would come to check after a month when the next payment was due.
All the while hare knew how he was going to make the mangroves grow without being cut. Farmers believed that when hare urinated on mangrove shoots they will grow producing toxins that killed anyone who cut them down. Therefore they could not approach those mangroves that were stinking from hare urine. These went on for a while and after a short time, the area that was barely forested became dense with mangrove trees and new shoots once again thanks to the efforts of Janja the hare.
Mother turtle travelled to land that month to lay eggs but she was not aware of how the terrestrial environment had changed. On her return back home she was so excited and full of joy that she shouted out for Speedie.
“How did you do it my son, how?” She asked excitedly. “The trees are grown and I can now hide my eggs however, whenever and wherever I like, tell me please!” She said hugging him tightly. Speedie responded with a calm relaxed voice,” that’s how we do it, Maa!”
Mother turtle was able to lay her eggs in peace and not long after, they hatched into baby turtles. Speedie for the first time in a long time was happy to have brother and sister turtles to play around with.
VOCABULARY (As used in the story)
Spawning- laying eggs or reproducing
Prompted- that caused
Toxins- poisonous substances
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR.
The story above is for kids and it is aimed at raising an environmentally conscious generation that will take care of the Marine environment especially the mangroves. Mangrove forests have been proven to be a critical habitat that harbors diverse animal species like birds, crabs, and fish and contributes largely to primary productivity. These forests have been continuously degraded for years by humans for settlement and agriculture making the areas surrounding these places prone to erosion and disappearance of the diversity of life present. Kenya earns a lot of foreign currency from ecotourism that is contributed in part by habitats like Mida creek in Watamu.
Thro’ environmental conservation we are able to stop the negative effects of not having these habitats and be self-sustaining as a nation.
This piece of art was greatly inspired by the ideas of Dr. Rashid KAKA. My beloved lecturer of Marine Ecology at KENYATTA UNIVERSITY.