Look no further because a heaping stack of Pancakes… (Tortoises)… is coming your way!
By Clinton S. Doak
Apologies, I think I confused this for my weekly baking blog and not my account of assisting with Pancake Tortoise (Malacochersus tornieri) surveysin Kenya.
But now that I have your attention, let’s get back on track and allow me to bend your ear a bit about the amazing work that the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy–in partnership with the National Museums of Kenya, The Kenyan Wildlife Service, and Turtle Survival Alliance–is doing for Pancake Tortoises. With a project that is still in its infancy, having only started in 2019, the amount of work that has been done is astounding. The passion and drive that these researchers have is what makes so many turtle biologists strive to be a part of programs like this. I was sent on behalf of our President and CEO, Marc Dupuis-Desormeaux, who has done extensive work in Kenya, to bring much needed program supplies and to assist in the mark-recapture surveys being conducted. That’s one of the best parts about working for an organization like Turtle Survival Alliance, yearly travel to programs across the globe.
I’ve done and continue to do my fair share of mark-recaptures, but this program was mind-blowing. Not only because of the awesome team, but also because of the growth that the program undertook in just five days! Every day started with meeting community conservancy leaders, totaling five different community conservancies. Visiting two or three sites at each conservancy yielded tortoises of all age classes, showing that recruitment is happening in all five of these conservancies. Which is huge by the way! The survey was remarkable and led to over 100 captures, including some recaptures—that’s more flapjacks than one person can handle!
The surveys were a huge success, showing us that Kenya is still a viable home for Pancake Tortoises. But the work isn’t done, Pancakes still need our help. It’s estimated that around 90% of Pancake Tortoise populations exist outside of these protected areas. With that being said, the amount of energy, passion, and interest that the community conservancy (including the leaders and people that reside in those communities) showed over those five days is an amazing indicator that they can help educate and illuminate the way to preserving this amazing species. Combining that passion with continued surveys across Kenya, and hopefully federal involvement, there is still hope for Pancake Tortoises.
Of course I have to sign off with the infamous phrase, which is actually a legitimate saying uttered in Swahili across Kenya, hakuna matata y’all! Alright, maybe not the y’all part (but I am writing this from my desk in South Carolina).
And even though this phrase means not to worry, you may still worry, because turtles and tortoises across the globe need our help.
Hakuna matata y’all,
Clinton S. Doak
All photos courtesy of Clinton Doak.
Image 1: Turtle Survival Alliance team members document a Pancake Tortoise in the Lewa Conservancy, Kenya.
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