Peponi is a small hotel on the exotic island of Lamu in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Kenya. The Korschen family, who still own it, opened the hotel two miles from Lamu town in 1967, and it still retains much of the same original character and charm. Small and personal, it is an ideal place to rest after a safari or simply to use as a hideaway.
The 24 rooms are divided into superior and standard, and all of them have ocean views. All rooms have overhead fans, mosquito nets, showers (no baths). Fresh flowers add a nice finishing touch. The hotel is at the one end of the 12-km.-long Shela Beach.
The Lamu Marine Conservation Trust, or Lamcot, was started by Peponi in 1992 to save the local sea turtles, whose numbers were fast diminishing, and is now headed by Atwaa Salim. With the backing of Carol and Lars Korschen and with financial support from conservation organization Tusk, its mission is to reduce the illegal trade of sea turtle products on the black market; increase the survival rate of the hatchlings and enhance beach security in Lamu through regular patrolling; treat sick turtles that have barnacles, tumors and other complications; spread awareness of the turtles as an essential part of the ecosystem and biodiversity, especially among the local community; promote eco-tourism through the trips to see the hatchlings.
Practical work on the ground includes the monitoring of nest sites, hatching of turtles, and tagging of turtles that are caught by mistake. Patrollers, all of them ex-poachers, now patrol the two main nesting beaches using camels sponsored by Tusk. The patrollers work on an incentive scheme, receiving bonus payments for every successful egg that hatches and nest that is protected. Ten years ago, only 20 nests hatched successfully; this rose to 70 nests last year.
Local fishermen who catch turtles by mistake now bring the animals to the trust headquarters, where they are they are measured, treated if ill, tagged, and released back into the ocean. Each fisherman is put on a register and paid an incentive according to the size of the turtle (in other words, what would he have gotten for it on the black market?).
As with many other Tusk projects its success depends on the commitment of the local community. Here they have taken on the plight of the turtle and changed their fishing and cultural practices. In addition, the trust and Lamcot work with the primary schools on Lamu to establish tree nurseries and run an environmental after-school club. They have also set up a bee-keeping project as an alternative form of income.
Tusk has been the project’s primary donor covering annual running costs since 2000. In addition the trust has purchased a boat, camels, and radio equipment for the beach patrolers. Through donations made by visitors to the project and the sale of merchandise, the project is able to cover the cost of capital items each year.