West Sumatra: Protection of the endangered leatherback turtles

Background

As part of an investigation into the consumption of turtle meat and eggs in the Mentawai archipelago off West Sumatra, in late autumn 2017 we discovered a nesting beach of the rare leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) on the remote island of Sipora, which had been unknown to the outside world until then ̶ the beach at Buggeisiata. The animals nesting there belong to the subpopulation of the North-eastern Indian Ocean, about which very little is known, but which is very likely acutely threatened with extinction. Unfortunately, both the eggs and the nesting animals are regularly consumed almost completely by the local population.

Location

Buggeisiata Beach, Betumonga Village, Sipora, Mentawai Archipelago, West Sumatra Province (Padang Capital), Indonesia

Activities

Since autumn 2017 the beach of Buggeisiata is supervised by a team of trained local rangers for the nesting season between October and May. As many nests as possible are moved to a guarded hatchery where they can develop undisturbed. Nesting and biometric data is collected by default and turtles are marked to learn more about this newly discovered population and to better protect it. No nesting leatherback turtles have been killed on this beach since we started our work. In the so far quite short observation period of two nesting seasons (as of May 2019), however, an annual yield of about 70 nests laid by about a dozen individual animals can be seen for the time being.

In order to make the project possible and to ensure its sustainability, its organisation and implementation is carried out in coordination and cooperation with the local village communities. Further, close cooperation is ongoing the nature conservation authority BPSPL Padang, the Indonesian Ministry Marine Affairs, and the Indian Dakshin Foundation.

Project location

Map Indonesia, Wikipedia

Indonesia (Map: Wikipedia)

Overview

  • Start of project: 2017

  • Species in focus: Leatherback sea turtle

  • Locations: Islands Sipora, Selaut Besar

  • Main activity: Protection of nesting turtles and their nests on the beach

  • Nistsaison: Oktober–März

Beach of Buggeisiata, Sipora, Indonesia

The beach Buggeisiata on Sipora

Ranger showing the shell of a poached leatherback sea turtles, Sipora, Indonesia

Ranger with the remains of a recently killed leatherback turtle

Hatchery for leatherback turtles; Sipora, Indonesia

Project manager on site Meriussoni Zai guards and measures a nesting leatherback turtle.

Hatchery for leatherback turtles; Sipora, Indonesia

In our hatchery the eggs of the leatherback turtles can develop undisturbed and safe from poachers.

Ranger counting egg shells in a hatched leatherback sea turtle nest, Sipora, Indonesia

A ranger counts the shells of a hatched leatherback turtle clutch in the hatchery to determine the hatching success.