Sea Turtles Under Threat in Sumatra

A beautiful Hawksbill sea turtle spotted foraging on the reef at Pulau Pagang, Western Sumatra.

Six species of sea turtles are found in the waters off Western Sumatra. Despite being endangered and protected by law, sea turtles are still hunted here for their shells and meat and their eggs are poached for their supposed aphrodisiac effects. Vendors sell turtle eggs for $1 each along the public beach in Padang without any fear repercussions. The local government has tried for years to curb the poaching through public education campaigns but to no avail, largely because there is a market driven by claims of increased libido. In addition, local authorities do not enforce the laws already in place.

Similar tough situations exist around the world for sea turtles and for those fighting to save them. Most recently, a young sea turtle conservationist was murdered in Costa Rica after patrolling a nesting beach for poachers. This tragedy highlights the fact that while volunteers are an important part of the effort to protect turtles, they cannot match the force that poachers are willing to use. Governments and law enforcement need to do their job!!