After around four decades of turtle conservation in Indonesia, the work to save some of the endangered species has shown significant results with around 50 percent of the population in the 10 largest hatching sites in Indonesia being saved from various threats.
Data from the 10 sites across Indonesia shows that 100 percent of the eggs could be protected from various threats, including theft, predators and nature. The data also shows that an average of 50 percent of the baby turtles could be saved.
There are four turtle species included in the data: the green turtle, hawksbill turtle, leatherback turtle and olive ridley turtle.
The data, presented during the recent symposium on turtle conservation in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, was taken from Abun in West Papua, Derawan in East Kalimantan, Paloh in West Kalimantan, Pangumbahan in West Java, Meru Betiri National Park in East Java, Karabak Ketek In West Sumatra, Tamiang Bay in South Kalimantan, Alas Purwo National Park in East Java, as well as Perancak, Kedonganan and Serangan in Bali.
Ida Bagus Windia Adnyana, head of turtle study at Udayana University’s veterinary faculty, said that the highest achievement was in the hatching sites in Kalimantan, which managed to save 70 to 80 percent of the population.
“It is because the turtles could be saved on the nesting beach, and there was not much exploitation there,” he told Bali Daily.
In Sumatran nesting sites, the percentage of turtles saved was lower, less than 50 percent, because egg smuggling was still rampant, particularly in West Sumatra and Aceh.
Meanwhile, in Java and Bali, the percentage of turtles saved reached 50 percent on average.
Windia said the turtle population in Java and Bali had been impacted by the activities of turtle conservation-based tourism.
“In some cases, the baby turtles could not survive because of incorrect treatment. Baby turtles should be released right after hatching.”
Overall, he said, the efforts had shown significant results, which were expected to improve further because people had become more aware about conservation.
“This is a success for conservation efforts in Indonesia. We have to be optimistic about the work that has been carried out for the last four decades because it has shown significant results,” he said.
Particularly in Bali, the improved results have been proven by the increasing number of nests along the island’s southern coast, stretching from Saba in Gianyar to Pengambengan in Jembrana.
He said that comprehensive quantitative data on the turtle population was not yet available, because there was no data on hatching sites nationwide.
During the symposium, 19 speakers from various Indonesian turtle conservation sites presented their data, experience and lessons learned from managing turtle conservation.
Wawan Ridwan, director of the marine and fishery program at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia, said that there were still a lot of threats against turtles.
“Trade in turtle meat and eggs is still rampant. Besides, there is also an increasing demand for plastron [the ventral surface of the turtle’s body] on the international market for medicinal purposes,” he said.
There are also threats from predators, unselective fishing — in which turtles are a bycatch, as well as the impact of climate change, for example eggs that failed to hatch because of coastal abrasion, he added.
“These various threats are forcing us to improve our conservation strategy by adapting to the current situation,” Wawan said.
Threats from outside, including the plastron trade, could not be overcome only by enforcing local laws, but needed joint regional or international efforts.
According to WWF, the issue of bycatch had been overcome by modifying fishing gear. The number of turtles that could survive after they had been erroneously caught and were released back to the sea reached 98 percent.
Participants in the symposium also discussed the development of turtle conservation-based tourism in places such as West Java, East Java, Bali and West Nusa Tenggara.
They agreed that the initiative needed to be supported by a policy and technical procedures that were in line with the biological needs of the turtles.