Turtle poacher turns his attention to conservation

Malini Pather, an aquarist at Durban’s uShaka Sea World, introduces Makotikoti Zikhali to Columbus, an endangered baby loggerhead turtle. Image © Roving Reporters

Wednesday, 28 November marked a turning point in the life of convicted turtle poacher Makotikoti Zikhali, who spent four hours at uShaka Sea World learning about the marine creatures that live along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline, and the need for their protection. 

Aquarists and education staff afforded Makotikoti his first opportunity to observe the underwater behaviour of endangered loggerhead and leatherback turtles, and learn about the importance of conservation.

Makotikoti was sentenced to five years in prison in March 2011 for killing a protected turtle near the mouth of Kosi Bay, in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

While in prison he expressed a desire to learn more about turtles and why his actions were considered unlawful. Since his release on early parole Makotikoti has been writing his life story, Confessions of a Turtle Butcher, under the mentorship of Roving Reporters’ director, Fred Kockott and with the assistance of Durban University of Technology journalism students.

Former turtle poacher Makotikoti Zikhali learns about the life cycle of turtles. Image © Roving Reporters

The aim of his book is to share his story in order to educate others on the fundamentals of conservation and its importance.

Makotikoti is also working on preliminary plans with renowned sculptor Andries Botha to produce a larger-than-life replica of the turtle he killed.

“uShaka Sea World’s mission is to teach people to care about the sea. Seeing Makotikoti appreciating the beauty of our loggerhead turtles, which are protected by South African law, was an enriching experience,” says Jone Porter, Director of Education for uShaka Sea World.

We’d love to hear what you enjoyed most about your visit to uShaka Sea World. Tell us which animal you found the most interesting, and why. Use the comments field below.

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