Indonesia: Green turtle population shrinks in Pasoso

Ruslan Sangadji The Jakarta Post 14 May 16;

The green turtle population continues to decrease around Pasoso Island, Donggala regency, a three-hour drive, or 108 kilometers, from Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi.

According to Ahmad, whom works as a guard on the island, during recent spawning seasons only 19 turtles have been known to lay eggs at the beach.

“Previously there were hundreds of them,” Ahmad told The Jakarta Post by phone on Thursday.

The 64-hectare Pasoso Island — known as Turtle Island — is considered a final fortress for green turtles. It has also been a crossing point for the animals.

Ahmad said a mature female green turtle could lay between 60 and 150 eggs each season, but explained that only a few, perhaps 11, of the hatched baby turtles make it safely to the sea and grow to reach adulthood.

Blaming the decrease of the protected turtle population on rampant poaching, he said many come to the island from outside the region to catch turtles and collect eggs for consumption.

Other factors, according to Ahmad, include fishing with explosives and trawl nets. “Many fishermen come here to hunt turtles,” Ahmad said.

He said that green turtles in Pasoso usually roam and lay eggs on the island over a period of 15 days every six months. They lay eggs during daylight hours and return to the sea when the sun goes down. After the mature female turtles have laid their eggs, they migrate to Kalimantan.

Munir, a representative from the Central Sulawesi Marine and Fishery Agency, said his office had included Pasoso Island in its action plan for conservation and preservation programs.

However, such programs are temporarily postponed whenever the green turtle population shows signs of increase, resulting in rampant hunting of the animals.

Munir expressed hope that the preservation program would continue, considering the present conditions. He said poachers mostly hunted by disguising themselves as fishermen when, in fact, they are illegally hunting for green turtles.

Admitting that he had once consumed turtle meat and eggs, Mohamad Nasrun, a local, said that before the green turtle was declared a protected species it had been common for locals to see the turtles wandering around.

“In the past, there were turtles as far as the eye could see. The beach was full of them. It’s not the case now,” Nasrun said.

The Donggala regency administration has initiated programs to protect green turtles around Pasoso from predators, including poachers and wild beasts. The administration has also instigated green turtle breeding programs.

“We have proposed that Pak Ahmad be nominated to receive the Kalpataru Award for his work to guard the green turtles around Pasoso Island,” Donggala Regent Kasman Lassa said, referring to the national award for environmental preservation.

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