East Borneo: Protection of the green sea turtles and hawksbill turtles in the Derawan archipelago


The Derawan archipelago off East Borneo is home to Indonesia’s largest and the world’s eighth largest nesting area of the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas). The current population is only about 10% of the population 70 years ago and is still threatened by illegal egg collection. The turtle eggs are no staple food for the population, but an expensive delicacy; a turtle egg costs more than five times as much as a chicken egg! The trade in the coveted turtle eggs therefore takes on the character of organised crime, which is difficult to deal with, and poses a serious threat to the survival of the archipelago`s green turtle population.


Derawan archipelago (also called Berau archipelago or berau islands), District of Berau (district capital: Tanjung Redeb), Province of East Kalimantan (province capital: Samarinda), Borneo island, Indonesia


The conservation project on the Derawan islands is existing since Turtle Foundation was established in 2000. It started on the Island of Sangalaki, where a ranger station was built in January 2002 and where the authorities for the first time granted complete protection of the island’s turtle nests. This protection was enforced by daily beach patrols of local rangers, who also transferred endangered nests to hatcheries and collected data on nesting activity. In 2008, the project was extended to the two Derawan islands of Bilang-Bilangan and Mataha. The plundering of the nests could be almost completely stopped also there, leading to the protection of about 75% of the nests of the archipelago’s green turtle nesting population.

Currently (as of 2019) the protection measures on Sangalaki, Bilang-Bilangan and Mataha are being continued by national governmental and non-governmental organisations. At the beginning of 2019, the Turtle Foundation established a new conservation project on the last large nesting island of the Derawan archipelago, Belambangan, which was still unprotected at that time. On Belambangan, all the measures for the protection of the sea turtles, which have proven effective in the years before on the other islands, are now implemented. Since the start of the project in 2000, the hatching of approximately 9 million young turtles has been made possible by the project of Turtle Foundation, most of which would otherwise have ended as eggs in cooking pots.

Other activities include environmental education, public relations, investigation and official cooperation on infringements of existing nature conservation laws, and advocacy towards government, public authorities, and other stakeholders. The activities take place in close cooperation with the Indonesian nature conservation organisation Profauna, local authorities, and the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs.

Project location

Map Indonesia, Wikipedia

Indonesia (Map: Wikipedia)


  • Start of project: 2000

  • Species in focus: Green sea turtle

Island of Belambangan, Berau, Indonesia

Belambangan Island in the Derawan Archipelago, Berau District, Indonesia

Green sea turtle returning to the sea after egg deposition

Green sea turtle returning to the sea after egg deposition

Egg collectors on Sangalaki, Indonesia

Egg collector on Sangalaki

Verkauf von Schildkröteneiern an einem Marktstand

Sale of turtle eggs on a market stand in Berau

Ranger relocates endangered turtle nests on Belambangan

Transfer of a nest endangered by flooding on Belambangan by our ranger Beny Piama

Environmental education for school kids in Berau, Indonesia

Environmental education for school children in Berau, Indonesia