At the tip of Nungwi village, by the lighthouse, there is a turtle sanctuary. And for nearly a week they offered sanctuary to me, too, in one of their vacant guest rooms.
The turtles are brought in either as hatchlings from the beach or adults, stuck in fishers’ nets and in need of care. The sanctuary originated in the minds of the villagers and is entirely community-driven, not European or American. Young volunteers do contribute to the upkeep of the sanctuary, as do all the tourists that come to feed endless amounts of seaweed to the greedy turtles floating around in their huge seawater pond.
I could count roughly a dozen babies and some 20 adults or young adults in the basins. While the effort is good, one can ask whether so much contact with people is a good thing. Feeding turtles is a main attraction and source of money, but what happens when the turtles are set free in February each new year? Will they approach swimmers or fishermen and put themselves in danger, thinking there is seaweed to be gained from contact with people? And if this risk was not taken, would people ever really learn to appreciate the friendly, vulnerable turtles as a species?
Absolute goodness probably does not exist. Perhaps the benefit gained already by the villagers’ increased appreciation for turtles has saved so many turtle lives that it does not matter if some of them think people equals seaweed fiesta. I for sure could not resist watching them munch away every time I visited.(Nungwi, Zanzibar, Tanzania; August 2017)