Turtle populations across the globe have been suffering heavy blows from all quarters. Climate change affects the average temperatures in their breeding beaches, which is believed to have a direct bearing on the sex of the offspring. This in turn impacts the population growth rate. If they are lucky enough to make it through to hatching stage, thousands of hatchlings leave their sandy nests and begin their precarious journey to the Ocean. Out in the open the tiny creatures are prey to Sea birds, dogs and other predators as they waddle their way into the warm waters. More danger awaits them in ocean, in the form of large fish such as sharks. However, human activity is the biggest danger to these gentle and beautiful creatures.
In Sri Lanka, efforts to conserve the turtle population began in the early 1990s. Presently there are many conservation centres in the Southern Coast of Sri Lanka, where the most popular breeding spots of Turtles exist.The native Sinhala common names
- Olive Ridley Turtle : Mada Kesbawa/ Eramudhu Kasbawa/ Parai Kesbawa/ Batu Kesbawa
- Leatherback Turtle : Dara Kesbawa/ Thun Dara Kasbawa/ Vavul Kesbawa/ Thel Kesbawa/ Neu Kesbawa/
- Green Turtle : Gal Kesbawa/ Mas kesbawa/ Veli Kasbawa/ Kola Kesbawa
- Hawksbill Turtle : Pothu Kesbawa/ Leli Kasbawa/ Pana Kesbawa
- Loggerhead Turtle : Olu gedi Kesbawa/ Kannadi Kasbawa
Source - www.srilankaecotourism.com
Hikkaduwa is one of the hotspots for such turtle breeding grounds. The Pearl Crew visited a Turtle Hatchery in Peraliya, in Hikkaduwa to find out how they are involved in the nationwide Turtle conservation effort. The villagers collect turtle eggs for consumption. So what the hatchery does is, they buy eggs for a higher price for conservation. It takes approximately 48 days for the eggs to hatch during sunny weather. Rainy days it takes around 60 days.
The hatchery releases 75% of the baby turtles and keep the rest for exhibition. They are released after about 3 days. The hatchery had a special fenced off area for hatching, where the eggs are buried in sand. The sand is piled up on each nest. A nest would typically have around 100 eggs. Once the eggs are hatched, the sand pile collapses and the caretakers know that the hatchlings are ready.
Some of the hatchlings are kept up to an year to ensure survival into adulthood. Although about 10,000 hatchlings are released each year, no one is sure how many of them survive. According to information by The Navy and The Wildlife Department, the long term survival rate is something like 1:1000
- Don’t touch baby turtles.
- Don’t leave trash on the beach.
- Don’t shine artificial light on beaches at night where sea turtles nest.
- Don’t contribute to illegal wildlife trades by buy products made of sea turtle shells (Spectacle frames, combs)
- Learn more about them and share with everyone
- Spread the conservation message
As a conservation effort, volunteer work is sought to maintain turtle hatcheries. Many tourists. particularly youth, get highly involved in activities here. They also add an attractive touch by painting colorful and attractive images of turtle life that inspire or tell a story to the audience.
We leave our readers with a poem, in the hope that they will be inspired to support turtle conservation.
Ancient chelonians of lineage primeval
Their survival now threatened by man’s upheaval
We gather together to celebrate our perception
Of turtles and their need for preservation and protection
For turtles forever to play their part ecological
To prosper and maintain their diversity biological
For turtle and tortoise, terrapin and kin
Their kind to preserve, their future to win
We must work together, I tell you from the heart
Whether we work together, or apart.
- ANDERS G.J. RHODIN
Story | Nilu Rajapakse
Photography | Danushka Senadheera (Turtle egg, Incubating eggs in the sand, Turtle hatchlings, Wall graffiti 1) Nilu Rajapakse (Two turtles, Loggerhead turtle, Disabled turtle, Breeding cycle, Wall graffiti 2)