SAVE THE TURTLES (KURA KURA) OF GILI MENO
The Green sea Turtles and the Caretta Caretta or Loggerhead Turtles are common to the waters of the Gili islands off the northern shores of Lombok. Growing to a diameter of approximately 1.5 meters, their shells have marking which allows identification of the turtle species. Turtles live an average of 80 to 90 years.
Running between the island of Lombok and Bali, The Wallace Line is the meeting of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. A great number and variety of turtles are found visiting this part of the world, from as far away as Mexico and South America, due to the meeting of theses two great bodies of water and the various ocean currents within with the turtles swim. All species of turtle have been specified as endangered as per International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).
Turtles have been in existence for over 150 million years. They are survivors who have adapted to continue to live where dinosaurs became extinct. The purpose of the turtle sanctuary here in Gili Meno is to save the turtle eggs from predators; permit them to hatch naturally and then to raise the young turtles for one year before releasing them safely into the sea. Injured turtles will also be cared for until they are well enough to be released back into the sea.
The turtles are fed every two hours from sunrise till sun set, a diet of fresh raw fish, which is caught by our volunteers when time permits, otherwise the fish is purchased from local fishermen. The water of the turtle tanks is changed every three days with fresh salt water pumped in from the sea.
Turtles breed every 1 to 5 years with the average being once every two years. Nesting occurs in summer / autumn and a single female lays several batches of eggs in a 2 to 3 week intervals. She comes ashore under cover of darkness, often at the same place where she entered the sea birth. She digs a hole using her hind flippers. After disposing 50 to 150 eggs in her nest she hides them with a covering of sand. Incubation differs dependent on the turtle species but the average time is 2 months. Mortality of the eggs and hatchlings is very high. Besides man, nest robbers include ghost crabs, dogs, cats, monitor lizards, foxes, monkeys, etc.
Hatching occurs at night. After emerging from the nest, young turtles run the gauntlet in their dash to the sea being hunted by birds overhead. Only a few make it to the sea. Those that make it to the sea are not free of danger, having to survive large fish and sharks from below and the birds of prey from above. Life is not easy fro the young turtles.
In the early stages of their lives, turtles are carnivores, feeding on small swimming and bottom feeding organisms such as jelly fish, tunicates, sponges, soft corals, crabs, squids and fish. They shift to a vegetarian diet as they mature with the adult turtles feeding on sea grasses and algae. A turtle reaches maturity after about fifty years.
In recent years the turtle population has decreased due to global warming, over fishing and the development of the beaches where the turtles lay their eggs. The largest threat to turtles is man. They are caught for food; both their eggs and their meat. They are the harvested for the oils produced from them to be used in the cosmetic industry and in the manufacture of medications. The shells are sought for the making of jewellery.
They are drowned in fishing nets and are victims to pollution in many forms. The increasing waste of plastics offers a big threat as the turtles mistake the discarded plastic for food and once ingested it blocks the turtle’s breathing and digestive passages. Otherwise, natural enemies for the adult turtles are a few and include some large fish, killer whales and sharks.
Presently the turtle sanctuary has over a hundred adult and baby turtles plus those located in other associated sanctuaries on the other side of the island of Gili Meno and expected to hatch in the next months. We are desperately looking for donations to build new ponds to house the new hatching and to feed the growing numbers.
For those of you that are visiting Gili Meno your donation can be made to Bolong who is in charge of the project. All the donations are invested directly in feeding and taking care of the turtles until they are released to the sea at the age of eight months.
The initial funding has been put in place, but we estimate that required capital works budget for new pools will require RP 25 million ($ 3.000 USD) per annum. This level of funding will enable us to release approximately 500 old turtles each year into the deep sea waters of the Gili Islands where they will be relatively safe from most predators because of their size.
Any donation would be greatly appreciated in aiding us to save the turtles.
For those visiting the island of Gili Meno donations can be made directly in the turtle's sanctuary.