Turtle hatcheries Buried in the sand

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By 2017-11-12

By Risidra Mendis

If you are an animal lover and support animal conservation you would definitely love to release a baby turtle from a hatchery and watch as it slowly and eagerly crawls towards the sea – to freedom.

But what many of us fail to understand is that most of the turtle hatcheries that operate along the Southern Coast are not interested in turtle conservation as they claim, but only in the money that they get by charging a fee from visitors who want to release a turtle hatchling into the sea.

The Green turtle, Leatherback turtle, Loggerhead turtle, Hawksbill turtle and Olive Ridley turtle nest in Sri Lanka. All five species and their eggs are protected under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance (FFPO).

According to the FFPO, it is an offence to kill, wound, harm or take a turtle, or to use a noose, net, trap, explosive or any other device to catch a turtle. It is an offence to keep in possession a turtle (dead or alive) or any part of a turtle, to sell or expose for sale, a turtle or part of a turtle, or to destroy or take turtle eggs. The import of a turtle, any part of a turtle, or turtle eggs is also prohibited without a permit issued by the Department of Wild Life Conservation (DWLC) and is an offence under the FFPO.

Commenting on the present situation regarding the release of turtle hatchlings during the day, President of the Organization for Aquatic Resources Management (OARM) Shantha Jayaweera told Ceylon Today, that most turtle hatcheries along the coast continue to release turtle hatchlings into the sea during the day.

"The main purpose of these turtle hatcheries is to protect the turtles from predators and ensure their safe release to the wild. When released during the day, baby turtles can get caught to predators such as wild boars, jackals, crabs and crows. A large number of baby turtles never reach the sea when they are released in the daytime. Baby turtles should be released at night when they are safe to reach the sea without been attacked by predators on the way. However, some turtle hatchery owners don't follow this procedure. The loss of nesting beaches due to development activities have also contributed towards a decline in turtle numbers because they will not nest in areas that are disturbed due to development," Jayaweera explained.

Commenting on the turtle hatcheries along the Southern Coast Zoologist Dilan Peiris said, most of them are mainly located in Bentota, Galle, Matara, Induruwa, Tangalle and Kosgoda areas and are operating without a permit.

"The DWLC that is in charge of protecting these turtles has not taken action against these turtle hatchery owners who are presently operating without a permit issued from the DWLC for many years. These turtle hatcheries are operating without following proper conservation methods. They claim that they are protecting turtles. What is the protection these hatcheries are giving these turtles? They are operating only to earn money and not to protect the welfare of turtles. If an animal welfare activist wants to keep a turtle as a pet, the DWLC will charge the person for keeping a protected animal. These hatcheries are allowed to operate illegally and without permits in the open and no monitoring is done by the DWLC," Peiris said.

DWLC however, is in the process of preparing a set of guidelines for turtle hatchery owners to follow.
DWLC Director General M.G.C. Sooriyabandara confirmed that guidelines are been prepared to regularize turtle hatcheries and that if they get any complaints with regard to hatcheries, wildlife officers are sent to the hatchery to check it out and if necessary, take action against those who violate the law.

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