Sea Turtle Conservation Centers

Marine turtle is one of the most attractive endangered marine creatures that listed on the IUCN red list. Sri Lanka marine conservation centres are actively engaged in protecting this animal. Most of these conservation centres are located along the west coast of Sri Lanka near the beach resorts such as Bentota, Kalutara, Hikkaduwa and Galle.  The visitors are welcome in these conservation centres and should pay a nominal fee for the entrance. The entrance fee and donations of the visitors are the main sources of fund of these conservation centres. Usually, the Sri Lanka road trips include several sites along the west and southern coast and sea turtle farm is one of them.

There are seven Marine Turtle species recorded in the world and Sri Lanka is the home for five of the seven species. Green turtles, leatherback sea turtle, olive ridley turtle, Hawksbills and Loggerheads marine turtles are the five species come to the beaches of Sri Lanka for nesting. Marine turtle species mainly recorded in the areas of south and south-east part of the island, where the most marine turtle conservation centres are located. A vast area of seagrass beds and coral reefs in this region provide important nesting and foraging grounds to marine turtle.

Even though that all marine turtle are declared as protected animals in Sri Lanka, under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance (FFPO, 1938 amended in 1972) still the exploitation of meat, eggs and other products of turtles have recorded some parts of the island. It is an offence to capture, kill, injure or possess marine turtles or their eggs. Declining sea turtle populations is a major concern for conservation biologists at the moment and today even though the marine turtles are protected globally. Banning the international trade of sea turtle products from the local government resulted in a considerable decline in slaughtering the marine turtles, but still, the marine turtles and their eggs continue to be exploited in some parts of the country without any hindrance.

Turtle eggs are still eaten or sold by the local community in some areas while the incidental capture of marine turtles in various fisheries along the northwestern, western and southwestern coast of Sri Lanka has been reported. This is widely recognized as an important issue in the conservation and the recovery of these threatened and endangered species.

Action Plan for Sri Lanka was prepared in 2005 as part of a comprehensive, concerted and integrated effort at a national level and it highlights the socio-economic benefits of sea turtle conservation. According to the Action Plan, the involvement of the local community in sea turtle conservation, providing alternatives to the coastal communities through developing their talents and increasing awareness in the sustainable use of natural resources has been increased in Sri Lanka. This study was conducted to assess the knowledge of villagers about marine turtles, their attitude towards conservation of marine turtles and the prevalence of consumptive use among the villagers in six villages along the northwestern, western, southwestern and southern coast of Sri Lanka.

In addition to in-situ conservation programs in the selected areas, long-term turtle awareness programs are being conducted in and around these high nesting villages by non-governmental organizations such as TCP in collaboration with the Department of Wildlife (DWL), Sri Lanka.

With awareness programs, conservation programs, and strict enforcement of laws prohibiting consumptive use along the coastline, specifically in villages in the western and northwestern areas, has reduced the exploitation of marine turtles. However, it is important to recognize that the majority of the coastal community is poor and the level of education is low.

Considering the poverty of the community involved in sea turtle exploitation, it becomes critical shifting conservation efforts towards these local communities, particularly the Fishers in some parts of the country, who are often in the position to make choices directly impacting the fate of marine. Many proposed protection measures in the Action Plan are associated with highlighting the socioeconomic benefits of conservation and of sustainable use of natural resources, as well as initiatives providing viable, sustainable livelihoods.

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Sanjeewa Padmal (Seerendipity tours)

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