From Turtle Harvest to Turtle Home

Our film crew recently returned from Raja Ampat, a province of Indonesia in West Papua, where they are making an IMAX® film about the reefs of the South Pacific.  Here, the endangered sea turtles are on the return thanks to local efforts by conservation groups working with villagers to support the turtles, instead of consume them.

For generations, the island residents of Runduma, Indonesia have been harvesting sea turtle eggs

The egg harvest was a tradition, organized so that families took turns going out at night to collect eggs from the turtle nests. Out of every 100 eggs, 30 would be taken, mostly from green turtles nesting on the uninhabited island nearby called Anano.

The eggs were eaten as well as sold for about 1,000 rupiah (9 cents) each and used for community expenses–fixing a new water filtration system, helping poor families send their kids to school–making them important for the local economy.

However, the turtles are endangered and a lot has changed in Runduma in recent years. Far from being the turtles’ hunters, the islanders are now their allies.

Photo by Keenan Adams, USFWS via Flickr, Creative Commons License.

In 2005, the people struck an agreement with local administration and environmental groups to ban the turtle egg and meat trade. A community program was created focused on sea turtle conservation. A beach patrol monitored the number of nesting turtles. When nests were found in areas that put the eggs at risk, they were carefully relocated to a safer place.

Since then, in exchange for their efforts, Runduma has also gotten support in the form of teachers for the local schools, financial support from the local government, and visits from celebrities. Donors can “adopt a turtle” or nest and pay up to one million rupiah ($96) to support the effort and make up for the lost income.

Now, the people of Runduma no longer need to harvest turtle eggs to make a living. Instead, they are thriving while working to save the turtles.

Photo by National Park Service South Florida / Caribbean Network via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.

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