Home > Sea birds > Roseate Tern colony in Watamu robbed of eggs by boys

A week ago, Corporal Said of KWS Watamu called me saying he had seen that there were clouds of birds over the islands way to the north of Watamu at Darakasi and asking if could go and look at them with him then and there. In the end we went on Thursday last week to check from the beach in the evening with a ‘scope. Sure enough there were probably a good 1,000 Roseate Terns and c.100 Sooty Terns over and on the islands, many were on the ground but it was hard to tell from that distance if they were nesting or simply roosting. An actual visit would be needed.

Roseate Tern - C.Jackson Roseate Terns

Sooty Tern Sooty Tern over the island

So today we headed over there at low tide with Steve & Jan and Karen from the supporting churches near Liverpool, UK who have been around to volunteer for a couple of weeks, and Neil & Kath + Joe visiting from Turi school. On arriving at the beach and checking with bins, we could quickly see that there were indeed terns there and behaving very much like they were breeding. The problem was there was also 4-5 people climbing one of the islands causing mayhem with the terns overhead.

We went as fast as we could with me having called the Warden as we went to report it and as we approached the boys, as they turned out to be, had come off the island and were starting to head back to Watamu. They came right past us and the one was carrying a shirt that was loaded with small round objects, the right size and shape of tern eggs. I asked if we could have a look at what they had and they refused saying they were just shells belonging to someone else and we couldn’t see… and then they took off at pace. 

 the boys at the base of the island


 the blue bag carried by the boy with yellow shorts is full of terns eggs. Two others were carrying clam shells they had dug up – again illegally

My estimate looking at the ‘bag’ would be c.250-300 eggs in there and on getting to the islands and walking around them there was only one place where there were any terns apparently sitting on eggs while there was plenty of ground surface which would have been ideal for nesting. There were also a lot of terns hanging around looking somewhat lost and perching on bushes and then on a sand bank nearby.

Basically, between this visit and what must have been previous visits, the colony has pretty much been wiped out by egg thieves leaving maybe 50-100 at most nests from what could have been a colony of 1,500 nests if judging from Whale Island is anything to go by. 

Roseate Terns nesting, Watamu The only section of the four islands where there was any sort of density of birds apparently incubating

Adult Roseate Tern in breeding plumage Adult Roseate Tern in stunning breeding plumage

3 Comments, RSS

  • Jimmy

    says on:
    August 19, 2011 at 12:35 am

    Thats terrible – obviously the level wardening is not adequate to protect this birds:(

  • Barbara

    says on:
    August 25, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    Was it not possible to insist they gave the eggs up? If they can be identified (their clothing was distictive and I doubt they have other clothes to wear) can they be prosecuted? Where are they selling the eggs and to whom? Can this be followed up? It’s a crime!
    Great news about the Dakatcha situation!

    • arochakenya

      says on:
      September 9, 2011 at 7:01 pm

      Thanks for this comment. The kids ran off fast and refused to cooperate. We weren’t in the position to do any arresting at that point though having talked with KWS since then will do so the next time we encounter it.

      I made a site visit with Dr Mohamed Omar, the Assistant Director for Research, Coast, last week and he has committed to making sure that signs are put up and even a fence and any other possible efforts to prevent the remaining eggs being stolen.

      We climbed up on one of the islands to check this time and found freshly crushed eggs but also an estimated 230 nests still being incubated. It is excellent to have KWS on board so positively and we support their position and work fully.

      Colin Jackson

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