The Jakarta Post
Ricardo Tapilatu watches a leatherback turtle return to the sea after laying her eggs on Jamursba Medi Beach in West Papua in 2010. (Courtesy of the University of Papua./-)
World Turtle Day is celebrated every May 23 to protect turtles, tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world.
According to their scientific classification, turtles belong to the diapsid group of the order Testudines, which is part of the class Reptilia. Some Testudines species have already gone extinct.
Turtles are one of the oldest reptile groups, even older than snakes or crocodiles. There are 365 turtle species known to be alive today, but some of them are highly endangered.
World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Indonesia has revealed that the archipelago is home to six out of seven of the world’s marine turtle species, as it provides important nesting and foraging grounds, as well as important migration routes at the crossroads of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Kompas.com has compiled a list from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) of threatened or near-threatened marine turtle species in Indonesia, along with their conservation status.
1. Dermochelys coriacea (leatherback turtle) – vulnerable, population decreasing
2. Chelonia mydas (green turtle) – endangered, population decreasing
3. Caretta caretta (loggerhead turtle) – endangered
4. Natator depressa (flatback turtle) – threatened species, data deficient
5. Eretmochelys imbricata (hawksbill sea turtle) – critically endangered, population decreasing
6. Lepidochelys olivacea (olive ridley sea turtle) – vulnerable, population decreasing
The hawksbill sea turtle, which is categorized as critically endangered, is the nearest to being extinct.
According to WWF Indonesia’s coordinator of marine species conservation, Dwi Suprapti, observations have hinted at the significant decrease of turtles in Indonesian waters.
The study looked at turtles’ nesting and egg-laying habits on numerous beach.
“In Indonesia, sea turtles mainly nest at Sangalaki Beach in the Derawan Islands, East Kalimantan; Paloh Beach in West Kalimantan, Pangumbahan Beach in West Java; Jeen Womom Beach, West Papua,” Dwi said.
Aside from natural factors, humans also contribute to the decreasing turtle population by capturing the animals for food, poaching then and selling off their body parts, and polluting the rivers and oceans with plastic waste.
“Recently, a turtle died at Paloh Beach because there was a plastic sheet blocking its stomach,” Dwi revealed.
Activists continue to reiterate that turtles need to be protected as they are an important part of ocean ecosystem. Oceana.org wrote that turtles maintain healthy seagrass beds and coral reefs, providing key habitat for other marine life, helping to balance marine food webs and facilitating nutrient cycling from water to land.
The animals, therefore, contribute significantly to the ocean.
Dwi emphasized that the illegal hunting and trading turtles must be reported to the authorities. This can be done through:
1. The Conservation of Natural Resources (BKSDA) (http://bksdadki.com/),
2. Office for Marine, Coastal and Resources Management (BPSPL),
3. GAKKUM Lingkungan & Kehutanan app (Environment and Forestry Law Enformencement) operated by Environment and Forestry Ministry
4. e-Pelaporan Satwa Dilindungi app run by the Criminal Investigation Department (Bareskrim)
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