Turtle Release in Sri Lanka *Video*

Kosgoda, on Sri Lanka’s west coast, is the home of a turtle hatchery operated by the Wild Life Protection Society of Sri Lanka. Established in 1981, its goal is to protect Sri Lanka’s turtles from extinction. Marine turtles have been roaming the oceans for about 190 million years. Unfortunately, only eight of these species of ancient reptiles are found living today.

Endangered Turtles

The beaches of Sri Lanka are the nesting grounds for five species of marine turtles: Green Turtle, the Leatherback, the Hawksbill, the Loggerhead and the Olive Ridley. All 5 species have been recorded to nest along specific areas of Sri Lanka’s coast.

There are 18 hatcheries found along the western and southern coastal lines. During just a 3-year period, nearly 100,000 sea turtles were hatched and released to the sea from these hatcheries. Key to its success if a program that pays local fishermen for eggs that they collect at night along the sandy beach.

While all turtles and their products are fully protected in Sri Lanka under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance, as well as by International Law, the market for turtle meat and shells is still lucrative. Anyone found guilty of committing this offense will be liable for a jail sentence and fines.

Volunteering at Kosgoda

At the Kosgoda Hatchery, visitors can see huge tanks filled with new born turtle hatchlings. After being fed, the baby turtles are taken to the sea and released when they are 2-4 days old, usually during the safer hours of darkness.

Here I am with several other volunteers releasing the turtles at sunset. We placed the little guys on the sand facing the sea and hoped they made the perilous journey out to sea. Less than 10% of the released turtles will survive.

I was so excited about visiting the hatchery and releasing the turtles, I planned my entire time in Sri Lanka around my visit!

Can’t see the video? Click on this link: Turtles Sprint to the Sea

All About Turtles

Here’s a bit more information from the Kosgoda web site:

Breathing: Turtles have lungs and must come to the surface to breathe every thirty minutes. When they are asleep their bodies do not need as much oxygen and they are therefore able to spend the entire night underwater.

Migration: Turtles are known to migrate over long distances. A Leatherback Turtle tagged in French Guiana in South America was recovered in Ghana some 3,800 miles away.

Reproduction: Marine turtles reach sexual maturity at 30 years and live to be over 80 years. To lay their eggs, adult females return to the beach on which they hatched. Sea turtles prefer quiet, dark, undisturbed places where they will be less vulnerable to predators.

Between 80 and 120 eggs are laid in each nest. The eggs are white and about the same size and shape as a table tennis ball. A single female may nest up to five times in a season. The temperature of the nest during incubation determines the sex of the hatchings.

When they hatch the young turtles make their way straight to sea and swim constantly for up to 2 days. This is known as the ‘juvenile frenzy’ and allows the young turtles to escape the predator-rich inshore waters.

Want to help?

Still interested in turtles and how you can help keep their numbers up? You can:

  • Go to the Kosgoda web site: http://www.kosgodaseaturtle.org/ — I did!
  • Visit the Kosgoda Hatchery (when you’re next in Sri Lanka) – I did!
  • Volunteer with Kosgoda, or another hatchery, for a 3-month time period. As a volunteer, you will help bury and dig up the eggs, feed the hatchlings and participate in nightly releases. In the off hours, volunteers teach at local schools. Sounds fun to me!
  • Make a donation to support the preservation of turtles http://www.kosgodaseaturtle.org/contacts.html – I did!

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This entry was posted on Saturday, May 26th, 2012 and is filed under The Giving Guide.

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