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The Green Turtles of Sukamade

The Green Turtles of Sukamade

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Every day, volunteers and officers of Meru Betiri National Park release hundreds of Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas), along the Sukamade shore within the park’s boundaries.

Six of the world’s seven types of turtle are found in Indonesia, and four of them visit Sukamade, located in Banyuwangi, East Java. Apart from the Green Turtle, they are the Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), Olive Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys olivaceae) and Hawksbill Turtle (Dermochelys coriaceae).

The most common of all is the Green Turtle, with most nesting along the Sukamade Beach. The area is the best in the world for turtles to lay their eggs, especially the Green Turtle. Apart from its location in a deeply forested area, far from human populations, there is also minimal hunting. The hatchlings are known as tukik. The Environment and Forestry Ministry has paid special attention to developing an awareness among the public about environmental preservation and its positive effect on tourism. That is evident every day when foreign tourists and local visitors come to watch the turtles lay their eggs and the release; there is no season determining when it happens.

Apart from the threat of hunting, international researchers say there has been a more than 50 percent decline in the world’s population of turtles from ingesting part of the huge amount of garbage in the oceans. Qamar Schuyler, a researcher from the Commonwealth Scientific Research and Industrial Organisation (CSIRO), estimates that from 4 million to 12 million tons of garbage are dumped in the ocean annually.

EVERY ONE COUNTS: Volunteers count the number of successfully hatched eggs at the incubation center. Eggs are collected from the beach and hatched at the facility to protect them from predators.
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Volunteers count the number of successfully hatched eggs at the incubation center. Eggs are collected from the beach and hatched at the facility to protect them from predators.

NEW ARRIVAL: A volunteer holds a newly hatched turtle.
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A volunteer holds a newly hatched turtle.

KEEPING WATCH: Tourists and volunteers watch a Green Turtle laying her eggs at night. The turtles’ avoid sunlight because it can damage their eyes.
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Tourists and volunteers watch a Green Turtle laying her eggs at night. The turtles’ avoid sunlight because it can damage their eyes.

LITTLE HOPEFULS: Baby turtles from the artificial hatching center are quarantined for two weeks before being released.
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Baby turtles from the artificial hatching center are quarantined for two weeks before being released.