Sea turtle conservation
A sea turtle monitoring programme has been set up by Yayasan Pulau Banyak.
A beach patrol team of locals, students and national volunteers have been trained to collect the data and use standardized methodology in their recording and conservation efforts.
Yayasan Pulau Banyak also provides the opportunity to the students of universities and higher education in Banda Aceh, to collect data for their thesis and have valuable work experience to develop their future careers.
Information is being collected during nightly beach patrols and nesting sea turtles are being measured, tagged and recorded. Nesting sea turtles receive a metal tag in each flipper. Each tag carries a different number, so individuals can be recognized when they return to the beach in the future.
In this way it is possible to determine how much the population decreases. That the population is less than before is already certain, as illegal egg poaching has been widespread for many years. Through the tagging programme Yayasan Pulau Banyak can tell if the population has reached critically low numbers because we are now able to count the tagged individuals that return to the nesting beach. This information will help to protect the turtles better.
Leatherback turtles also receive a micro chip implant to help their identification in other countries such as India and Madagascar.
In February 2008, the first sea turtle in Sumatra was tagged in Pulau Bangkaru. In May 2008 a new research post was built on the island to provide better facilities to the beach patrol team. In November 2008 international volunteers are expected to join the programme and assist the local patrol team in the data collection.
Turtles in Indonesia
Throughout Indonesia there are four different sea turtle species that lay their eggs on the beaches of the many different islands. Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) and Hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) are critically endangered with extinction on a global scale, whereas the status of Green (Chelonia m. mydas) and Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) turtles are less of a critical state, but still alarming.
The flatback turtle (Natator depressus) and Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) are frequent visitors of Indonesian waters to forage and migrate but don’t nest in the archipelago. Conservation efforts throughout Indonesia are attempting to reverse the current state of decline of sea turtles. Important nesting sites are being patrolled in order to protect the eggs from poaching and predation.
All sea turtles in Indonesia are threatened by the consumption of their eggs and meat. Fishery by-catch is also a major problem, where sea turtles get entangled in fishing nets of large commercial fishing vessels and are victim of unsustainable fishing methods for shark fins and aquarium fish.
Turtles in Sumatra
Leatherbacks, Hawksbills and Green turtles all nest along the coast of Sumatra, one of the largest islands in Indonesia. Unfortunately, conservation efforts concentrating on the plight of these species are minimal and the only continuous monitoring programme is set up by Yayasan Pulau Banyak in Pulau Banyak, South East Aceh.
Currently there is insufficient data on the status of sea turtles in Sumatra and any information collected would add to a global data base to help joint conservation efforts. As Leatherbacks are known to migrate vast distances, the ones nesting in Sumatra could be found in different continents and/or countries. Knowledge on the migration routes of these animals could improve cooperation between countries working to save Leatherbacks from extinction.
The turtles in Sumatra face the same threats as in other parts of Indonesia, with the addition of the sale of jewellery made out of the shell of the endangered species. Trade between countries such as China and Taiwan in these animal products keep the demand of eggs, meat and jewellery.
GIS mapping and zonification
In June 2010 Yayasan Pulau Banyak conducted a GIS mapping programme in collaboration with Ruben Venegas and Lucia Morales. During their 8 weeks of fieldwork they managed to map all the islands as well as assess the state of the natural resources such as coral reefs. Photographic evidence has been obtained and a full report has been written which will aid in writing up a comprehensive management plan for the region.
Environmental education programmes
In conjunction with the Padi Foundation and Christopher Audley (currently Director of Second Nature Asia Pacific), Yayasan Pulau Banyak has undertaken a comprehensive environmental education programme, which involved an interactive lesson plan for local schools adapted to the national curriculum for Biology. 50 teachers of primary and secondary schools in the region have been trained during a 3 week training programme on how to deliver environmental education programmes to their students, using the local biodiversity and natural environment.
Yayasan Pulau Banyak is currently involved in several community programmes, such as sponsoring teachers for local schools, sponsoring the youth clubs and sport clubs. These activities gain support from the local communities for the conservation work and provide a close knit network with the community. A comprehensive eco-tourism programme and several socio-economic programmes have been developed.