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Serangan Islanders Against Bali's Turtle Trade

Serangan Island Officials Join WWF in Rejecting Proposal by Bali Government to Set Aside 1,000 Turtles for Sacrifice Each Year.

(11/25/2009) Beritabali.com reports that the traditional chief of Serangan island, Made Mudana Wiguna, has firmly stated his disagreement with the purported recommendation of Bali's governor Made Mangku Pastika to the Forestry Department that a yearly quota of 1,000 turtles be set aside for ceremonial sacrifice.

Mudana feels that the governor's recommendation is not in keeping with efforts to conserve the turtle population. Moreover, he sees the use of turtles for sacrifice as flying in the face of efforts to restore Serangan Island's branding as a "turtle island."

Mudana told the press his rejection of the governor's recommendation is in keeping with the commitment of the people of Serangan Island to protect turtles and repairs Bali's negative reputation as an island that destroys turtles. "This reflects our commitment to eliminate the trade in turtles and restore Serangan island's name as a ‘turtle island' like it enjoyed in 1974," he explained.

Mudana pointed to the inclusion of turtle conservation rules into local traditional laws in force on Serangan island as proof that the people of his village are genuinely concerned with protecting turtles.

Mudana underlined that any recommendation to set aside 1,000 turtles for ceremonial purposes is not a recommendation from the people of Serangan, what's more the recommendation is for the sacrifice of 1,000 green turtles and not olive ridley turtles.

According to Mudana, the endemic species of turtle on Serangan island is the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and not the olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea).

WWF Joins the Debate

The World Wildlife Fund for Animals (WWF) is urging the Department of Forestry to reject the provincial government of Bali's request for 1,000 green turtles be set aside each year for ceremonial purposes.

WWF considers that if the Bali government's recommendation is accepted it will open up the door for the resumption of the green turtle trade in Bali which officially ended in 2003 when the use of turtles for ceremonial purposes was outlawed.

The coordinator of WWF programs for Indonesia, Creusa Hitipeuw, told the press gathered on Serangan island on November 20, 2009, that there are efforts by certain parties to re-open the turtle trade in Bali through using religious ceremonies to camouflage their true intentions. WWF warned that such tactics, if successful, will have a negative impact on Bali's tourism industry.

Said Hitipeuw: "the need for turtles is not for religious ceremonies, most will be sold for consumption (as food). If, in fact, the turtles were for religious purposes we could devise a mechanism."

Creusa Hitipeuw, the coordinator for WWF Indonesia estimates that 500 turtles are sold illegally each year in Bali. Most of these turtles come from Sulawesi, Maluku and Sumatra.