Saving one turtle at a time in Bali | WWF
Saving one turtle at a time in Bali

Posted on 13 May 2012

The Hindu community of Bali has traditionally used marine turtles for religious ceremonies for decades. Consumption of these turtles summed between 10,000 and 20,000 a year.  
By Aimee Leslie, WWF's Marine Turtle and Cetacean Manager

Indonesia is 90% Muslim, but Bali is the exception, which is 90% Hindu. The Hindu community of Bali has traditionally used marine turtles for religious ceremonies for decades. Consumption of these turtles summed between 10,000 and 20,000 a year.

It is no secret that changing a tradition, specially a religious one is no easy task; but WWF-Indonesia was determined to do so. The local veterinarian and Hindu, I.B. Windia Adnyana, was aware of the problem and took matters into his own hands. He joined forces with his brother, a local religious leader to talk to the Hindu community and let them know that the turtle ritual could have dire consequences for the survival of the local populations.

The religious leaders listened and wanted to help, but could not eliminate a practice that was still intrinsically knit into their customs. Besides, the whole village of Serangan Island depended mainly on the sales of adult turtles to the Hindu community.

None the less, the local government joined in, and in 1999, measures were agreed on. Only 300 marine turtles per year would be culled for religious purposes. These turtles would be provided only through a permit authorized by the local government. The turtles would only come from the Turtle Education Centre, to be built by the government in Serangan Island.

The Turtle Education Centre would only use five Olive Ridley turtle nests a year, to raise the turtles for Hindu religious ceremonies. This is because adult nesting turtles have a much higher value for the future of their population. In nature only 1 out of every 1000 hatchlings born survives long enough to achieve sexual maturity.

Since 2006 the Turtle Education Centre has been up and running. It provides the Serangan village with more income than they ever had when dedicated to the illegal turtle trade. Students and tourists go to the Centre to see and learn about marine turtles. Though this is not the ideal solution, we’re in the process of getting there. WWF and its local partners were able to make a difference for Indonesia's marine turtles, one turtle at a time.
Olive ridley turtle being raised for traditional Hindu use.
© WWF / Aimee Leslie
Because of natural and human threats, only one in every 1000 olive ridley turtles will reach adulthood.
© Carlos Drews/WWF LAC
Olive Ridley turtle.
© Sebastián Troëng