Thursday, January 20

E. Kalimantan islanders threatening turtle survival, Conservationists say

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BERAU: The absence of wildlife conservationists from a key turtle nesting island off East Kalimantan’s Berau district has had a disastrous impact on the survival prospects of the species, activists say, Jakarta Globe reported.

Rusli Andar, the coordinator for WWF Indonesia’s East Kalimantan marine program, said on Tuesday that since the expulsion last September of his organization and the Berau Turtle Foundation from Sangalaki Island by local residents, there was no one to protect the eggs laid by the turtles on the island’s beaches.

He said residents were taking the estimated 1,000 to 1,500 eggs laid each night and selling them for Rp 10,000 ($1) each, and that conservation workers visiting the island last week had failed to spot any turtle hatchlings.

“How can we expect there to be any hatchlings if the locals keep taking the eggs? These people know the period during which the turtles nest,” he said.

“The situation has become very worrying since we were driven out last year.”

Rusli added that in the absence of conservation workers, large amounts of trash were piling up on the beaches where the turtles nested, further reducing the prospects of the eggs hatching properly and the young turtles swimming out to sea.

“There are no more conservation activities going on there. The turtles are laying their eggs and people are promptly taking them. There’s just no attention being paid to this problem,” he said.

“If this isn’t addressed immediately, we will lose a key turtle habitat, because Sangalaki is the biggest nesting site for green and hawksbill turtles in the Berau marine conservation area.”

Tandya Tjahyana, the head of the East Kalimantan Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), said separately that his office was short of manpower to patrol the island and could only assign two officials there since the expulsion of the conservation workers.

Sangalaki is one of 12 islands in the Berau maritime conservation area, which spans 1.2 million hectares and contains 3,000 fish species and at least 500 species of coral.