Sea turtles roam the oceans in the form known today since over 100 million years and are currently globally represented by seven species. All species are now endangered or threatened with extinction. This is mainly caused by massive hunting, egg collection for human consumption, by-catch in fisheries, pollution of the oceans, and progressive coastal development. Although all species of sea turtles are now officially protected in most countries, the decline of the world’s sea turtle populations is still ongoing. Without specific protection measures it has to be expected that in the next decades the first species will disappear from our earth forever.
The Turtle Foundation was established in 2000 in Germany as a charitable foundation that aims to protect sea turtles by manageable, affordable, and sustainable projects. The Turtle Foundation now has affiliate organisations in Switzerland, Indonesia, Cape Verde (west of Africa), and USA. Currently, the Turtle Foundation runs two larger projects: one in the Indonesian Derawan archipelago, and one on Boavista, an island of Cape Verde.
The Derawan archipelago (also named Berau archipelago at the eastern shores of Borneo, Indonesian province of East Kalimantan) is among the top ten of the world’s most important nesting sites of the green turtle (Chelonia mydas). As part of a documentary film on sea turtles in the year 1999 the filmmaker Eberhard Meyer witnessed on Sangalaki, one of the Derawan islands, how professional egg collectors looted every day all turtle nests that were build in the night before. This was against official law and was the motive for Eberhard Meyer and other founding members to establish the Turtle Foundation.
Investigations of the Turtle Foundation revealed that on the Derawan islands almost all turtle nests were harvested until beginning of the year 2000. The consequences of this massive exploitation are now apparent: The Turtle Foundation continuously collected data on turtle nesting activities in the last 10 years. According to recent evaluations of these data the current population of annually nesting green turtle females now is only about 3,200 animals – this is less than 9% of the population in the 1940ies!
Currently, the Turtle Foundation operates permanent ranger stations on three important nesting islands of the green turtle in the Derawan archipelago (Sangalaki, Bilang- Bilangan, and Mataha). Thus, the nesting beaches can be continuously monitored, and about 75% of the turtle nests of the Derawan archipelago are now protected against illegal egg collection. This is done in cooperation with the local authorities. Due to these efforts poaching of turtle eggs now is almost completely eliminated on the three project islands, and after a long time larger quantities of turtle hatchlings are able to reach the sea. Since the beginning of its activity, the Turtle Foundation enabled a start into life for about 4.5 million turtle hatchlings. However, this seemingly large number is qualified by the fact that only one out of a thousand hatched green sea turtle reaches maturity, for which it takes about 35 years.
The objectives of the Turtle Foundation in the Derawan archipelago are the permanent protection of the sea turtles against egg poaching, hunting, and habitat loss, but also securing of the existing population, and in the long term the recovery of the population to numbers which ensure their survival in the future. Due to massive exploitation in the last decades and due to the long generation time of the green turtles it will take decades until the conservation success will be visible in the increase of the population of nesting turtles, even if continuous and comprehensive protection measures are carried out. Therefore, the work of the Turtle Foundation in the Derawan archipelago has to be expanded and continued for a long time to achieve its objectives.
This requires, in addition to sufficient financial resources, the dedication of the currently 18 local rangers who are employed by the Turtle Foundation. During their work they live day and night on the lonely islands, which are otherwise uninhabited. For their supply and the transportation of employees to and from the islands, as well as for patrols of the surrounding waters, the Turtle Foundation operates two speedboats. One of the boats is engaged for services for the island of Sangalaki, the other one is assigned to the more southern islands Bilang-Bilangan and Mataha. Although the boats are treated with great care and are regularly maintained, clear signs of long-term and frequent use under tropical conditions are now apparent. In the foreseeable future the condition of the boat of the southern islands even might cause a considerable threat to the safety of our employees. Therefore, this boat had to be replaced as soon as possible.
The immediate and unbureaucratic help of the Foundation of Animal Aid Wolfgang Bösche now allowed us to purchase a new speedboat including new engine for our southern project islands. This now makes it possible for our rangers to continue their work for the protection of the sea turtles without undue risk. The Turtle Foundation is extremely grateful to the Foundation of Animal Aid Wolfgang Bösche and their sponsors for this great support.
A ranger buries a clutch of eggs in the hatchery operated by the Turtle Foundation on Sangalaki. Nests that are placed too close to the high tide line are threatened by inundation, which will lead to the death of the embryos. Those nests are excavated and breed in the hatchery. The turtles hatch after about 60 days and will be released into the sea the same day.
The new speedboat is sponsored by the Foundation for Animal Aid Wolfgang Bösche. It now replaces the old speedboat that was used for supply trips, transportation of employees, and sea patrols for the southern project islands (Bilang-Bilangan and Mataha). It is equipped with two engines of 40 HP each; one of it is the old motor, the other one is the new engine that was also sponsored by the Foundation for Animal Aid Wolfgang Bösche. Using two engines largely improves the safety of our employees during their 2–3 hours trips over open water to and from the islands.
TURTLE FOUNDATION (GERMANY)
Ammerlander Hauptstrasse 1 – 82541 Münsing, Germany
Tel.: ++49 8177 926 038 / Fax: ++49 8177 8439
Sparkasse Bad Tölz-Wolfratshausen
Account number EUR: 555 1 5555
Banking number: 700 543 06 / BIC: BYLADEM1WOR
Charitable organization under German law Tax exempt status Branches in:
- Cape Verde