Empathy Between Species with Sea Sense NGO

As many of our Facebook followers will be aware, over the last few months, the House of Blue Hope charity has been a privileged participant in CJ Eklund Fine Art Photography’s Empathy Between Species Project: “a black and white portrait photography project that focuses on highlighting and increasing awareness about the treatment of animals in Tanzania”. An ambitious, far-reaching project, the House Of Blue Hope joins fellow children’s shelters, schools, animal welfare shelters, and wildlife conservation organisations, in partnering with the Tanzania based photographer, in her efforts to educate the young citizens in becoming more responsible and considerate of the animals with which they share their country.  

Already in the short time this project has been in action, it has facilitated the donation of a water tank and irrigation kit from Balton Tanzania Ltd to the charity. This gift has opened up the possibility for the charity to become more self-sufficient.

More than facilitating donations from businesses, CJ Eklund’s project has given something very special to the kids in House of Blue Hope’s care: opportunities to learn about animal welfare, and vital conservation work being done in Tanzania, from experienced professionals who have guided the kids through up close encounters with these wonderful animals- both wild and domesticated.

In July this year, The Empathy Between Species Project organised for Scania Tanzania Ltd to transport the HBH kids to the Every Living Thing animal sanctuary. Having visited the shelter in April, the HBH kids were eager to return and get updates on how the animals they encountered were getting on. The kids soon realised that over the course of three months, the number of animals the sanctuary had rescued had significantly increased and that the need for careful animal stewardship was as important as ever.

Another organisation that is taking part in the Empathy Between Species project is Sea Sense. They are a Tanzanian (NGO) that works closely with coastal communities to conserve and protect endangered marine species including sea turtles, dugongs, whales, dolphins and whale sharks. In August HBH welcomed two Ocean Ambassadors from Sea Sense to the community centre where they taught the HBH kids, and as many kids from the community who could fit in the centre, about the wildlife that calls the Indian Ocean its home. These University of Dar es Salaam graduates shared the wealth of knowledge they had gained through their Aquatic Sciences and Conservation degrees, as well as their time volunteering for the marine conservation NGO, with the kids who learned about endangered and vulnerable species. After a long day at school in the hot Tanzanian afternoon sun, you might expect the kids to be disinclined to pay attention, but all eyes and ears were firmly focused on the two young men who were taking the lesson.

Ocean Ambassadors from Sea Sense NGO teach the kids in the community center in Mabibo about endangered species

The Sea Sense Ocean Ambassadors visited the HBH kids and discussed their work protecting endangered species such as turtles, whales, and Dugongs.

So positive was the kids’ reaction to the lesson, that when the opportunity to visit a sea turtle hatching in Kigamboni to the south of the city materialised, CJ Eklund Fine Art Photography was determined to ensure the HBH kids would have the means to be there when these precious creatures made their way from land to sea for the very first time.

the children make their way across the beach in Kigamboni where the turtle nest is.

The kids make their way to the turtle nest site, that has been guarded day and night by volunteers at Sea Sense NGO, protecting endangered species.

Coordinating with Lindsey West, Sea Sense’s director, CK Eklund Fine Art Photography was poised to transport the kids to the stretch of beach patrolled nightly by dedicated volunteers, who ensure vulnerable sea turtle nests aren’t disturbed or harmed by human activity, at South Beach on Dar es Salaam’s southern coast. With an ever decreasing window of opportunity to witness a hatching event during this year’s hatching season, it came as a blow when Lindsey informed CJ that two nests which were due to hatch in September, had been discovered to be rotten. Only one nest here in Dar es Salaam was left. As is the nature of such an event, despite careful, daily monitoring, Lindsey could only give CJ a couple of day’s notice at most, so it came as a relief when CJ got the call: the nest was viable and due to hatch within twenty four hours. The kids would have to be transported two hours south of Mabibo in time to catch the baby sea turtles as they scrambled from nest to water, as the day was coming to a close.

Sea Sense volunteers teach the HBH kids about turtle releasing procedure on the beach

The Ocean Ambassadors, and Sea Sense volunteers talk to the kids about Sea Turtles and the hatching process.

With transport generously provided by Scania Tanzania Ltd, a dash across the city with the kids and supervising adults, the HBH party made its way to the quiet beach, where, beside the roped off nest, the volunteers reiterated the lesson taught back in the community centre, as well as safety procedures to ensure no harm would be done to the many hatchlings the kids were about to witness, and so that the kids could play an instrumental part in helping them on their first journey.

Kids stand beside the roped off area of beach where the Sea Sense volunteers dig up the baby turtles

Moments later, the volunteers pushed back the sand covering the nest, revealing the newly hatched baby sea turtles, and helping them pull their way out of the hole and towards the ocean. The kids watched as these vulnerable little creatures battled over the tiny mounds of sand and seaweed, some kids sweeping debri from their paths and watching in delight as they finally reached the water. In an instant these clumsy finned turtles became elegant swimmers completely at home in the ocean. The exhilaration of the occasion was evident in the kids and their carers who spent what little daylight was left of the day, playing in the wash and running around the beach safe in the knowledge these little ones had overcome their first of countless hurdles they face before adulthood. Indeed, despite so many turtles making it to the water, the numbers which make it to adulthood are incredibly low. On this occasion two out of three of these nests had no viable eggs. Of this successful hatching, one egg didn’t hatch. And according to the Ocean Ambassadors volunteering at Sea Sense, only one in every thousand eggs that do hatch, make it to adulthood. The fragility and preciousness of life was inescapably highlighted through this experience, that will stay with the HBH kids for years to come.

Kids watch as baby turtles make their way to the ocean in Kigamboni

The vulnerable baby sea turtles are watched as they make their way to the ocean.

Don’t forget, if you want to make an online donation to help support opportunities like this, or simply a one off donation to contribute to the cost of caring for a child, there will be zero fees charged on Giving Tuesday 28th November, so that every cent donated goes straight to the kids.


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