Picture this: you have just arrived on Kuta beach, Indonesia, after 24+ hours on a plane. Unsuspectingly, right off the bus, you wade into the ocean… A man is shouting in the water with dozens of people standing at attention at the shoreline. You’re told to stand still! Don’t move your feet! …You might step on a baby sea turtle!
After literally walking right into an ocean swimming with baby sea turtles, we realized that the conservation site lay right behind us (in the shape of a humongous glass turtle statue, no less.) Four locals (we metDion and Bono) and “Mr. Turtle” (Agung, previously the chief of security on Kuta Beach for 25 years), have been running this show since 2011. Every single day at 4:30, Agung, whom locals and tourists affectionately know as “Mr. Turtle”, shouts into megaphone recruiting locale from the beach to “Come save baby sea turtles! They can’t do it without you!! Bli Penyu! Sea turtles!”
Each visitor is provided with a tiny bucket and an even tinier baby black turtle of their own to release into the ocean – an experience to remember, especially for young kids. Mr. Turtle makes all the kids to promise to come back in 25 years, when the grown up turtles migrate back to Kuta Beach and lay their eggs to repeat the cycle! After naming our turtles, we laughed at some of the little guys who are so eager to scurry into the sea that they take leaps of faith out of the bucket. Eventually the tide sweeps them away, leaving nothing but flipper footprints… only 1 out of 1000 will make it in the deep blue sea.
It’s a fantastic method of raising awareness. Generally, people come to Kuta to party, experience the night life, the surfing vibes… but what were we up to on our last night? Sitting on lawn chairs drinking tea with the locals waiting for Bono to come back from his sea turtle hunt. The men left at 10pm armed with ojeks (motorcycles) and flashlights to search the shore for mother turtles, who wade in at night and lay their eggs- around 100 in a nest. While waiting, Dion taught us some Indonesian, some legendary Malay ghost stories, laughed at us for not being out drinking at the clubs (“Canadians are so different from Australians!”), and explained that he works 3 jobs while staying up all night waiting to get calls and pick up the eggs.
These guys truly work out of their hearts; they don’t get more than 3 hours of sleep per night, and they make no profit for the work they do. By 1 am we were so tuckered that we could barely speak English, never mind Indonesian. It’s no wonder that when we first met Bono he was taking a nap underneath the stairs while Mr. Turtle was gathering everyone to the beach.
Olive Ridley turtles are internationally listed as ENDANGERED, largely due to consumption on islands where their meat is regarded as a staple. While locals and volunteers like Dion and Agung have dedicated their lives to saving their species, here’s 4 easy steps YOU can take to help:
Check out their website, http://www.baliseaturtle.org
E-mail their sponsor (Humane Society of Australia) and rave about a job well done, http://www.hsi.org.au
Send a donation (Currency rates: IDR is = to .0001 CAN, so even 5$ = 50,000$!) http://www.baliseaturtle.org/donate-now.html
Spread the word! Like them on FB, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+… Raise awareness!