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Doyinsola Ogunye — Defender of the law turned critical defender of turtles and marine systems

Doyinsola Ogunye — Defender of the law turned critical defender of turtles and marine systems
Education, especially that of young minds, is work that Ogunye is passionately committed to. (Photo: Wild Africa Fund)

Doyinsola Ogunye is a lawyer turned conservationist who started the Mental and Environmental Development Initiative for Children in Lagos, Nigeria. Medic’s main programme, Kids Clean Club, is designed to teach children about the importance of caring for their environment, encouraging them to pick up litter, recycle, and take other pro-environmental actions.

During a Mental and Environmental Development Initiative for Children (Medic) beach clean-up in 2015, Doyinsola Ogunye got a call about a stranded sea turtle and responded swiftly. Having rescued the turtle, she posted to social media to get advice about its care. Calls came flooding in from marine experts across the world. After a few days the turtle was released, but it was a turning point for Ogunye: a passion for a species was born. 

“Giving back life to the ocean is something that really, really makes me fulfilled,” she says.  

Oguyne contemplates the beaches of Lagos, which are prime nesting grounds for turtles.
(Photo: Wild Africa Fund)

Ogunye has since rescued many turtles, most of them critically endangered Leatherbacks and Olive Ridley sea turtles. There are multiple and varied threats facing turtles in Nigeria. Due to coastal development, turtles often lose their way to their nesting spot, or out to sea. They are also poached for their meat, and are caught in fishing nets. 

Most of the turtles Ogunye rescues are critically endangered leatherbacks and olive ridley sea turtles.
(Photo: Wild Africa Fund)

When locals find a turtle, either stranded on the beach or being sold on the streets for food, they notify Ogunye and her team jumps into action. Ogunye also works directly with fishing communities, to foster understanding of the role turtles play in the ecosystem.

“The most important thing is to teach people and show people the roles these turtles play, especially in the local communities who are fishermen,” she explains. “We have to encourage them to keep these turtles in the ocean and the way we do that is to let them know that these turtles are your friends.”

Doyinsola Ogunye works with children, educating them about the importance of clearing waste from local beaches in Nigeria. (Photo: Supplied)

The result of her work is a growing movement of understanding, care and mutually beneficial coexistence between turtles and the communities in which Ogunye works. 

“There are so many people that are now involved. The local fishermen, they have now become, you know, guardian angels for these turtles.” DM

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