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Ending Bali's Turtle Smuggling Trade

Environmental Activists Map Out the Need for a Multi-faceted Approach to Ending the Exploitation of Turtles.

(5/15/2005) According to a report in the Indonesian-language Denpost, some 3,972 turtles were illegally smuggled into Bali's Serangan island in 2004 - representing nearly half of the estimated 8,000 turtles traded in Bali that year. These numbers, estimating the size of the illegal turtle trade in Bali, are compiled by a joint-monitoring team of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Environmental Impact Agency (Bapedalda).

Although the current rate of turtle smuggling shows considerable improvement from the estimated 9,628 to 30,121 turtles traded illegally in Bali between 1969-1999, the level of the current trade remains a matter of grave concern. The coordinator of the WWF-Bapedalda team, Dr. IB Raka Suardhana, told a meeting discussing ways to reduce turtle smuggling held in Sanur on Wednesday, May 11, 2005, that the still-high rates of the turtle trade demonstrate that those concerned with controlling such crime primarily the police were not working in an optimized way. Dr. Suardhana told the group that the future success of turtle conservation projects in Bali will depend entirely on the ability of non-governmental groups to form effective alliances with each other, the government and the local communities.

A Complex Problem

Describing the illegal turtle trade as a complex problem beyond the ability of any single non-governmental organization or one government department to solve, Dr. Suardhana said that in addition to stricter law enforcement there also needs to be a simultaneous effort to create employment for those economically displaced by ending the turtle trade. On the local community level, public support to end turtle smuggling is required, including support from local religious and traditional village leaders.

Turtle Conservation and Education Center

Dr. Suardhana told the meeting of an effort underway by the people of Serangan island to restore their image as the "Turtle Island" via the construction of a Turtle Conservation and Education Center (TCEC). The TCEC is intended to operate as an education and research center regarding turtles and the environment while at the same time adding a new tourist attraction to Bali. The Center is also intended to act as a stimulus for a number of small to medium size enterprises that will, in time, provide alternative employment opportunities for the people of Serangan island now deriving their incomes from the illegal turtle trade.