The Southeast Asian country of Indonesia consists of over 17,000 islands and is thus the largest island state in the world. Located on the border between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, its tropical seas are home to a unique diversity of species and are also part of the famous coral triangle. Of the seven existing species, six inhabit Indonesian waters and five nest regularly on its beaches. However, very little is known about Indonesia’s sea turtles compared to many other countries, and they are not well protected. This is where the Turtle Foundation’s commitment to the endangered sea turtles started. Our Indonesian projects are implemented by our local sister organisation Yayasan Penyu Indonesia (YPI).
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: Surabaya), 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.
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.
Buggeisiata Beach, Betumonga Village, Sipora, Mentawai Archipelago, West Sumatra Province (Padang Capital), Indonesia
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.
The hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) is one of the most endangered species of sea turtles. In addition to the usual threats, the main reason for this is hunting for their shell. The material is mainly used to produce jewellery and decorative utensils. Indonesia was probably once the home of the largest population of hawksbill turtles in the world, but there are now only a few thousand sexually mature turtles left in this huge region. The killing of sea turtles and the trade in turtle shell is officially forbidden in Indonesia, however, this is generally not sufficiently enforced. Beside the open offer on many markets, souvenir shops, and other shops particularly in touristic regions there is even a lively trade with turtle shell products in the Internet. Since each further decimation endangers the existence of the hawksbill turtle in Indonesia acutely, the trade with turtle shell must be fought urgently, both on the side of the supply and the demand.
Indonesia, nationwide. Project coordination: Bali
This project aims to save the hawksbill turtle from extinction in Indonesia by curbing the illegal trade in turtle shell products and stuffed animals. A large part of the project consists of public relations and campaign work. Specific activities include:
- Development of a network of supporters in the Indonesian travel industry
- Campaign aimed at international tourists to increase the awareness of the negative effects of buying turtle shell products on the remaining population of hawksbill sea turtles in Indonesia.
- Campaign in the local social media to achieve a clear change in the awareness and behaviour of the local population with regard to turtle products; it is to be communicated that turtle shell jewellery and stuffed sea turtles are completely “out of fashion”.
- Directly address online shopping platforms offering turtle shell products
- Market observations at identified main sites of the tortoiseshell trade (Bali, Yogyakarta, Nias) with before and after analyses to determine the success of the project.
- Certification of vendors who comply to cease selling sea turtle products
- Investigation of production centres and commercial centres (Nias, Medan, Makassar, Surabaya, Yogyakarta)
- Report investigation results to local authorities and initiate prosecution for known violations of applicable law.