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Guarding the Sea Protectors
One of two rescued endangered olive ridley turtles swims in its new pool as it arrives at Sea World's animal rescue center after being flown from the Oregon coast by the U.S. Coast Guard to San Diego, California March 30, 2016. The two female turtles, named Thunder and Lightning because they were each stranded after major winter storms, began their recovery at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, and wildlife biologists hope to eventually return them to the wild, according to SeaWorld spokeswoman Kelly Terry. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Thursday, 19 April, 2018 | 18:00 WIB
Guarding the Sea Protectors

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has declared six of the seven sea turtle species as endangered. Sea turtles are under threat because of human activities such as deliberate capture, turtle egg theft and the destruction of their habitats-despite their important role in safeguarding marine ecosystems. But several groups have intervened to protect these majestic creatures. On the Selayar Island, South Sulawesi, a community of divers are partnering with local residents in a turtle conservation program. In Paloh, West Kalimantan, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has trained locals to spearhead efforts to protect turtle eggs. In commemoration of International Earth Day on April 22, Tempo English reports. 

Turtle Egg Hunters To Conservationists

Sileya Scuba Divers (SSD), a community of divers, enlists local residents in a conservation effort. Sea turtles around Selayar Island are under threat of declining. 

Zul Regal Janwar could not mask his shock when he entered a traditional market on Selayar Island, South Sulawesi, in 2011, and found turtle eggs being sold everywhere. When asked where these eggs came from, vendors chose to remain tight-lipped. "It took us a fairly long time to find out where the eggs came from," said the 39-year-old.

Regal was on Selayar with other members of the Sileya Scuba Divers (SSD) community. They were appalled to learn that turtle eggs were being sold at only Rp800 to Rp1,000 each. The local male population would consume turtle eggs because of the myth that they help boost men’s sexual stamina. 

The SSD could not stay silent for too long and began investigating the origin of these eggs. SSD members took turns approaching the vendors in the market and finally learned that the turtle eggs were supplied from Selayar Island’s west coast, from the hamlet of Tulang, Barugaia village. 

The SSD team immediately went to Tulang to observe how locals would hunt for turtle eggs, while gleaning information about the hamlet’s influential figures. "We wanted to get them to condone stopping the hunt for turtle eggs," said Regal. 

As it turned out, the most influential person in the hamlet was also the most prolific turtle egg hunter. The man, Datu, was the hamlet head as well as a coordinator for the sale of turtle eggs to Selayar’s markets. But Regal and his peers saw the situation as an advantage. "Because it was the locals who were doing the hunting. No mafia from outside the island was involved," he said. 

The SSD went to talk to Datu to discuss how to stop the hunt for turtle eggs. The meeting took place on a bamboo divan at Datu’s home. Luckily, the hamlet head had an open mind. That very night, he expressed his willingness to stop turtle egg hunting in the interests of conservation, but on the condition the SSD provide locals with a solution for an alternative source of income. 

The divers’ community complied. That same night, they began drafting a concept for turtle tourism to empower Tulang residents. They also planned a campaign to stop turtle egg hunting. The campaign would continue until 2012. The SSD not only campaigned in residential pockets around the coast, but also at the markets. "As long as eggs were still being sold at the markets, people would still want to hunt them," said Regal.

Read more inspiring Outreach stories in Tempo English Weekly Magazine



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