Olive Ridley turtles find their home on Kuta beach

Kuta beach has often been a site for the release of hundreds of Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) baby turtles taken from the hatching site managed by the Bali Sea Turtle Society.

 The release of baby turtles always attracts locals and tourists, who enthusiastically participate in the event. Therefore, the society uses this event to campaign for turtle protection and collect donations for conservation efforts.

Freedom: Sea turtle hatchlings move toward the ocean.Freedom: Sea turtle hatchlings move toward the ocean. The Olive Ridley turtle is one of seven species of turtle found in Indonesian waters. The number of female turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs can reach five per day. As they usually come in groups, they compete to find the best place to nest on the beach.

 This olive-colored species has an almost round shell with six or more pairs of costal scutes. It typically nests one to three times per season, producing about 100 to 120 eggs on each occasion. The inter-nesting interval is variable, but it is approximately 20 to 28 days. It will migrate every one or two years.

 This turtle reaches sexual maturity at the age of 30, with a range of two to eight years, depending on its migration between the feeding and breeding sites.
 The male and the female usually breed close to the nesting beach. The female will then live temporarily on the beach walking ashore to lay eggs and use its flippers to dig a hole of 50 to 70 centimeters depth and close the hole afterward.

 They usually lay eggs at night up until dawn and can repeat this several times within two weeks. After the eggs hatch, the babies scuttle from the nest to the sea at night.
 The Bali Sea Turtle Society has been conducting baby turtle releases and collecting and hatching eggs on Kuta beach since 2002, with the number of eggs reaching 1,000 to 8,000 every year.
 This year, the nesting season has come earlier than usual; it is normally around June or July. By the end of May, the society had already managed to collect around 7,000 eggs laid by 50 turtles.
 During the nesting season, conservationists from the society usually patrol the crowded Kuta beach up to Legian and Seminyak beach until dawn to protect the nesting areas and collect eggs. The turtle is very sensitive to human activity and daylight, thus any disturbance will make the female return to the sea without laying eggs.

 The conservationists start digging holes to take the eggs and collect them when the female turtles have already returned to sea. They will bring the eggs to the hatching site and bury them just like the mother turtles do. They also take notes on the number of eggs, the type of turtles, as well as the time and location where they found the eggs.
 The eggs are moved to the hatching site due to the crowded situation of Kuta beach, which is packed with tourists almost every day, a condition that will make it difficult for the baby turtles to come out of their nests. Human activity and dogs roaming around the beach can be dangerous for the babies and the eggs.
 Local people and tourists around Kuta have shown their interest in turtle conservation, always enthusiastic to join the baby turtle release and actively giving information to the society whenever they find a nest.
 This initiative has been a great help for the society since its members and volunteers could not always come at the right time and place to save the eggs.
 This will hopefully be a sustainable effort so that Kuta beach will remain a favored nesting beach for the turtles. 

BY YOAN ARI S ON 2012-05-28 jakarta post/ bali daily
— Photos by Zul Trio Anggono

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