It’s safe to say that plastics and other marine debris are known to cause problems for marine life, especially turtles. Plastics floating throughout the water column appear similar to jellyfish, a favorite food of sea turtles. Being inquisitive creatures they often bite and chew things to work out what they are, a behavior common to many animals. Whether they purposely or incidentally ingest plastics, its can lead to a series of complications for the turtle. The lucky ones will be able to pass the foreign item through their entire digestive tract and may escape with little to no injuries. Many others are not so fortunate, the plastic creates a blockage somewhere within the digestive tract. These blockages often lead to a gas buildup internally, which causes difficulty for the turtle when it tries to adjust its buoyancy. Turtles that are unable to control their buoyancy are left to drift about at the oceans surface, this floating behaviour is referred to as ‘floating turtle syndrome’. The outcome for the turtle is often not good, either slowly starving to a ill and weakened state because of a lack of ability to dive down to forage for food or alternatively being predated on, because it couldn’t dive away to out manoeuvre a hungry predator.
So to put it simply- plastic bags kill turtles. From this, an idea came about to continue ongoing sea turtle outreach efforts by focusing on this simple message. Environmental awareness is generally very low here in Mozambique. It seemed like a good opportunity to combine a lesson with the key focus of sea turtle conservation and broader environmental sustainability ideas of recycling and conserving.
Through a collaborative partnership with All Out Africa and their marine conservation project based here in Tofo, we decided to create a turtle friendly bag activity that could be delivered through various workshops with local coastal communities.
Plain canvas carry bags were created and printed with the simple message, ‘Recycle. Conserve’, where one side of the bag the text is in Portuguese and the other in english. The concept was to get the kids to engage with our topic by participating in an crafty activity. Exploring ideas through art lessons is very effective here, these type of activities are not part of the formal school curriculum so it makes the activity not only new and exciting but memorable.
The turtle friendly bag activity was combined with All Out Africa’s swimming lesson program. Twenty students from Pembane primary school were split into two groups, one group in the pool learning swimming skills the other joining us, to learn about turtles, plastics, basic colour theory and generally have an fun time painting turtles.
Here are some more images of the bags turned out.