Turtle Release Program, Bali.

Turtles would have to be one of the wonders of the world, and a turtle release program is a great interactive family activity. Not to mention, my favourite character on Finding Nemo. Travelling with kids can be difficult to grab their attention and help them focus on the wonders in front of them. I try to use animal experiences as a way to tap in to those little brains and create a lasting family memory.

Bali has turtle release program which started as a result of turtle numbers declining significantly. There are many reasons for the decline in turtle numbers. To start, tourism has grown rapidly in Bali in the last ten years resulting in large numbers of tourists on the beaches where turtles lay their eggs. According to official statistics of the Bali Provincial Tourism Service (Dispar, 2016) the destination of Bali,  as a whole, has seen a steady increase from 2 million foreign visitors in 2008 to 4 million in 2015.

The Issue

Turtle meat is considered a delicacy and plays a central role in religious ceremonies. Demand is overwhelmingly for green turtles, as they eat mainly grass resulting in a less fishy tasting meat. The Balinese have been granted a dispensation which allows them to use a turtle for religious ceremonies but the numbers are now very low having had many restrictions and regulations enforced.

Sea turtles face numerous hazards. Humans have long hunted the animals for their meat, shells and leather and plundered their eggs for food. At sea, fishing nets trap and drown them. Coastal pollution poisons their habitat, and beachfront construction destroys their nesting sites.

There are seven oceangoing turtle species, and all are listed as endangered under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Indonesia, home to six of the seven species, signed the treaty in 1979.

Current problems

In February, Bali marine police officers confiscated 600 kilograms of butchered green turtle meat in the resort area of Kuta. In April, it was reported locally that police had raided a warehouse in Gianyar, central Bali, to discover three green turtles, two of them still alive. Between the 1970’s and 1990’s, Bali had been notorious as the centre of sea turtle smuggling with as many as 27,000 sea turtles slaughtered per year.

Some solutions

Several campaign works against the trade and hands on projects on some beaches in Bali from saving the nesting sea turtles, relocate the eggs, to releasing the babies to the sea; the trade had fallen drastically and in 2011 the environmental activists proudly announced that “The cages and slaughterhouses in Tanjung Benoa are now all empty and no more turtles are being traded in public places. While it is still possible to find some animals on the black market but they are now hard to find. The number of killed and traded animals have dropped around 90 percent since the onset of the campaign!”

These  recent confiscations raid finds are cause for concern.

Our experience

We visited Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali for a week’s vacation and in that time we were able to release a turtle hatchling into the ocean. The hotel runs their own turtle release program. The experience is open to both guests and visitors of the resort. Bookings are required for the experience and is only offered on particular days of the week. A  release at low tide or even in small swells may give the hatchlings a higher chance to get out.

Click here for a link to the hotels information on the program.

On the afternoon we were to release our turtle there was a pounding incoming surf. How is a  little tiny hatchling in a cup is meant to cope with sudden release into a strong surf. Its survival of the fittest, I hear you say, and surely they need to deal with it at some stage. Distracting my kids from finding a smashed up baby turtle after he was redeposited on the beach created an interesting sideline to this activity!

No, I joke. My husband repeatedly reassured the kids that the turtle would be under the waves where there is no swell.  Yeah right, you can tell who the water person in this relationship is?

Blessings were made en route to the beach and another at the beach, before releasing our hatchlings. Regardless of whether the turtle made it or not. The fact that these hatchlings have had a chance to hatch and get to the water is half the battle.

If you have been to Bali and seen the stray dogs and wondered what they feed on? Chances are many would feed on eggs and hatchlings.

Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali

Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali is closing for redevelopment at the end of July 2017.  3 years from now, I sincerely hope the newly opened hotel offers this program. The program offers both education and understanding to the Balinese employees but also to the guests of the hotel.  Hotels in Kuta and Seminyak would struggle to offer the same program in such largely built up areas. The hotel runs its own turtle release program and it would be a shame to see not only the guest activity to disappear but to loose a site that assists the program outside of the more highly concentrated areas.

Pan Pacific to close, click here for more information.

How can you help?

Sign and share the petition on change.org. Sign & share the petition at change.org started by Occupy for Animals that sends instant emails to the Office of the Indonesian Government in Bali, at the attention of the Governor, I Made Mangku Pastika, as well as a copy to the Tourism Board of Bali.

Sign and share this petition.  Please sign the petition started by SOS Sea Turtles Switzerland/France that sends instant emails to emails to the Office of the Indonesian Government in Bali, at the attention of the Governor, I Made Mangku Pastika, as well as a copy to the Tourism Board of Bali.

Alternatively, you can make donations to the Bali Sea Turtle Society (BSTS) click here for information on how to donate and programs they run.

Would I do this again? Absolutely. Responsible tourism activity ticked! Engaged family memories ticked!

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