The Gili Islands are a paradise for sea turtles, as well as holiday makers. You can even find endangered species such as green sea turtles and hawksbills swimming around in the islands’ warm waters throughout the year. However, the growth in tourism activities, changes in climatic conditions, and damage caused to reefs have led to a decline in turtle population.
In Gili Trawangan, the residents have set up a turtle conservation project. Along the beach, you can find a hatchery in front of Dino Café run by Pak Dino, who is a keen conservationist. The local residents collect eggs and bring them to the hatchery instead of selling them in the market. The hatchery buys the eggs and places them in safe and secure incubation areas.
The government has allocated some funds for the project, but it survives mostly on donations received from tourists. The residents have purchased an incubator with the funds and created three small pools for the hatchlings of different sizes. After hatching the eggs, the turtles are transferred to the holding tanks. They are allowed to grow there till they are big and healthy enough to be sent to the sea. Twice a year the volunteers monitoring the turtle conservation project release the hatchlings that are sea-ready into the, warm waters off the eastern coast of the island.
Gili Eco Trust has also been doing some work towards re-growing coral reefs, encouraging turtles to go back to the sea, and keeping eggs safely on the beaches when they are being incubated.
A similar project has already been organized in Gili Meno as well. The turtle sanctuary in Gili Meno consists of pools and bathtubs that are constructed on the beach. They are filled with Loggerhead and Baby Green Turtles and nurtured till they are ready to be released into the sea.
Encouraged by the efforts of the local residents and conservation groups, the government has initiated action to prevent encroachment into turtles’ natural habitat. The government has issued strict orders to move bars, stalls, and restaurants away from the beaches where turtles nest. This is because turtles shy away from laying eggs on busy, dirty, and brightly lit beaches. You may find some tables, sun loungers, etc., during the day, but they will all be moved away at night so as to create the right condition for turtles to come over to the beach.
These actions have led to an increase in the number of turtles coming to the beach for laying eggs. Structures are also being built around the eggs for keeping them safe as the incubation time is 60 days. Though only 1 out of every 1,000 hatchlings manages to reach adulthood, the programme has been successful so far. Donations towards turtle conservation projects are always welcome and can be made on the islands.
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