On Monday, 29 February 2016, a delegation composed of representatives of Indonesian authorities and NGOs visited the Island of Derawan in the District of Berau to inspect local souvenir shops for illegal turtle shell products. For such souvenirs, numerous critically endangered hawksbill turtles are regularly killed despite that they are protected by Indonesian law. Two shops were found selling bracelets, necklaces, rings, and keyring pendants made from turtle shell. The officers confiscated all pieces they found over the protest of the shop owners and of some Derawan citizens who witnessed the action. The confiscation action on Derawan was extensively reported in the local media.
The illegal hunt for hawksbill turtles is a major problem in the waters of the Derawan archipelago, where since 2000 the Turtle Foundation operates a beach protection project for nesting green turtles. The Island of Derawan is the center for regional and international tourism in the region. There, turtle shell jewelry and even stuffed young hawksbill turtles are openly and bluntly offered in souvenir shops and by street vendors. In order to obtain the carapace scutes, boiling water is poured over the animals, and after the cruel procedure they are thrown back into the sea, often still alive, where they painfully die.
Dead hawksbill turtle floating on the sea. The carapace scutes were peeled off in order to use them for souvenir production. Unfortunately, similar incidents can be seen quite often in the waters of the Derawan archipelago. Image: Hana Svobodová
This is forbidden by law, but until recently the local authorities did not enforce the regulations. Local fishermen already reported a considerable decline of the region’s hawksbill turtle population during the last years, indicating that its extinction is inevitable if no effective protection takes place soon.