HELLO, LITTLE FELLOWS!
A visit to Kuta Beach Sea Turtle Conservation
Bali, the tropical island that sits slightly under the equator, is a land blessed with year-long summers that many people easily call home. However, the island does not only belong to humans. Bali is also home to beautiful nature and unique species, one of them being Lepidochelys Olivacea or also known as Olive Ridley sea turtle, a medium-sized sea turtle species with a distinctive olive color and heart-shaped carapace that can grow to almost two feet in length.
These sea turtles are gentle carnivores that consume mostly jellyfish, crabs and snails but occasionally also eat seaweed and algae. To make sure that these fellows are safe on the island, a sea turtle conservation center stands right in the heart of Kuta Beach with a massive turtle statue made of concrete, which also functions as a hatchling area for the eggs. The institution is named Kuta Beach Sea Turtle Conservation (KBSTC).
A native man from Kuta named I Gusti Ngurah Tresna, who is famously known as “Gung Aji” or simply “Mr. Turtle” among the locals and visiting tourists, leads the team at the conservation. The slender 64-year-old figure has a glistening smile and dark skin as a result of long exposure under the sun, one of the consequences of his job.
“It was back in 2001 when sea turtles came up to lay eggs in Kuta Beach,” Gung Aji stated. “Before that, sea turtles already came to lay eggs but there were no strict laws to protect them. Plenty of the eggs were sold on the street for consumption. But after 2001, when the government issued a protective law, everything changed.”
Since then, the number of baby sea turtles rocketed, from only 20 percent, going up to 90 percent.
Supporting the government, the KBSTC team also did an extensive education program for the public, like teaching and sharing knowledge about the life of sea turtles, from their survival rate in the wild to the impact on tourism.
“The impact on tourism sector is the one that works really well on delivering the message,” Gung Aji continued. “With the world’s attention on Bali as a paradise and tourist-friendly island, can you imagine what would happen if there is news that sea turtles’ lives here are under threat? Most of our lives here depend on tourism, so we definitely need to take care of all its aspects.”
Seems like the education works well too. As a result, along the 15-kilometer beach stretch (starting from the airport in Kuta all the way to Canggu), if someone, locals or tourists alike, spots a sea turtle coming up in the middle of the night to dig a hole on the sand with both of its front flippers as a sign that she’s about to lay eggs, that person will automatically contact the KBSTC team and make a report.
“We often receive a call around 11 p.m. or even midnight, informing us that there is a sea turtle laying eggs. We will send our team right away to the location,” said Gung Aji. This action is not only to protect the nest, but also to evacuate the eggs and bring them to KBSTC for a safer incubation.
BACK TO OCEAN
In 2008, two giant companies, Coca Cola Amatil Indonesia and Quiksilver Indonesia, came on board to support KBSTC and brought the conservation up to another level. A proper office was built to store all the sea turtles data, while an open space for visitors is still available.
The numbers of the eggs laid in the sanctuary are written on the white board and updated almost every night for people to see. They also built a massive turtle statue of
concrete with an open carapace filled with sand – it also functions as an incubation area for the eggs until they hatch, with a retractable canvas roof to protect them from the blaring sun and pouring rain.
“KBSTC needs this kind of support. Back in the day after we relocated the eggs, we still had to face some threats, like rats and ants, some of the predators of these poor eggs. Rain can also damage the eggs,” said Gung Aji as he sat cross legged on a wooden bench next to the statue.
With the significant rise of Olive Ridley sea turtles, more people are attracted to come and learn about the lives of these adorable fellows. During the egg-laying season, from May to October, the KBSTC team often holds a baby sea turtle release almost every afternoon at 5 p.m. at Kuta Beach. The event is open for everyone and usually starts with an educational briefing about sea turtles prior to their release. So, are you keen to join the baby sea turtle release?
Kuta Beach Sea Turtle Consevation invited guests to release baby sea turtles to the ocean. Someday, the females will return to the beach to lay eggs.
Have a good life in the ocean, little fellows!