Turtle Conservation in South East Asia

Sea turtles are an ecological important species that play an essential role in tropical marine habitats. They are one of the oldest marine reptiles in the world and have always been part of a balanced ocean food chain.

Sea turtles can be found all throughout the world’s oceans but are particularly abundant in South East Asia, travelling through the currents of the Pacific ocean.

However, these animals are deeply threatened because of destructive human activity. Fishing and ocean trawling kill a multitude of sea turtles every year through by-catch. They get caught in nets that were originally meant for other animals, such as fish and crustaceans.

Garbage and pollution is also a problem for sea turtles. These gentle animals often mistake garbage such as plastic bags and discarded fishing lines as jellyfish or other prey.

On top of that, the breeding grounds of these turtles are gravely affected. Sea turtles are well known for nesting on the shores of their original nests. They use the magnetic fields of the Earth to imprint on their birthplace so that they can return to the area where they were born to lay their own clutch of eggs.

However, turtles are extremely sensitive to light. Bright lights from cities discourage nesting mothers from going ashore to lay their eggs. Debris and garbage on the sandy shores of beaches also disrupt turtle hatchlings while they are on their way back to the ocean.

Turtles are now extremely vulnerable and are at risk of going extinct. In South East Asia, there are now several volunteer based operations that are trying their best to conserve these endangered reptiles.

In the Philippines, there is the non-profit Pawikan Conservation Centre found in Morong, Bataan. Pawikan is a Filipino word for sea turtles.

Founded in the early 2000s, the Pawikan Conservation Centre is run by former turtle egg poachers who had a change of heart after representatives from Greenpeace pleaded that they make an effort to preserve the animals instead.

The tiny area is known to be home to two sea turtle species: the green sea turtle and the olive ridley. Olive ridleys are more abundant in the area than green sea turtles. Olive ridleys also nest on the coasts of Bataan.

In South East Asia, five out of the seven known sea turtle species make their homes in the area. That is why places like the Pawikan Conservation Centre are especially important. They keep the beaches and nesting grounds clean of garbage and get rid of any lights and loud sounds that disturb the turtle mothers.

Once the mothers lay eggs, the conservationists also dig up the nests to transfer them to an enclosed hatchery. There they are allowed to hatch without the threat of predators. After the eggs hatch , they are then released into the wild.

The efforts of these South East Asian conservationists are some of the first defences the Earth has for protecting the sea turtles of the Pacific. But merely supporting them is not enough. More people have to be educated regarding the protection of sea turtles so that preserving these animals become a world wide effort.

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