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PULAU BANYAK > TURTLE CONSERVATION


Click to enlargePulau Bangkaru, the second biggest island in Pulau Banyak, is a magic island. Having seen Pulau Bangkaru, you will change your references to what beauty is! Untouched jungles, pristine beaches and the amazing turtles. The only people living on this big island was the turtle egg poachers. Today it is only a few guards and researchers.

Every night, all year round, Green Turtles lay eggs, mainly on the Amandangan beach. Green turtles have over 1m long shells and weigh over 200kg. Between November and March there are also a few Leatherback turtles laying eggs. Almost 2m long and 500kg heavy! Now and then also Hawksbill Turtles also come up.

The only way to see the turtles on Pulau Bangkaru is through YPB (Yayasan Pulau Banyak, or the Pulau Banyak Foundation). The reason for this are several:

  • YPB has an agreement with the authority responsible for all national parks and protected areas (KSDA).
  • To avoid disturbing the conservation, research and monitoring work, as much as possible, but still accommodate the turtle beach as a tourist attraction.
  • To avoid exploitation by less serious organizers.
  • To help finance the conservation activities.

Visits will only be allowed 2 times a week and not more than 2 nights on the island, of which only one night to see the turtles. This activity is however in the process of starting up and not yet formalized.

Click to enlargeA new research center is under construction and soon also facilities for tourists. We arrive at Pelanggaran Beach in front of the research center. We surf with the boat through the waves and we all help unload and drag the boat to safe ground. After dinner we visit the turtle beach, following the specially trained turtle guides. We have to walk through the jungle in the darkness for 20 minutes. Getting close to Amandangan, the turtle beach, the sound of the jungle mixes with the sound of the waves. You will never forget the starlit beach, the sound of the breaking waves, the dark rocks rising tall and the sound of the jungle behind. It is not allowed to wander off by oneself and one has stay behind the turtle guide. You will se how a turtle lays egg and how the monitoring and research is done through tagging and measuring. If you are lucky enough to see a Leatherback, you will see how it is scanned for microchips, and maybe inserted with a microchip. If you stay until the early morning hours you can see turtle infants heading for the sea, maybe hunted by lizards and eagles. In the sea sharks are waiting for them.

Click to enlargeThe rest of the time on Bangkaru is best spent either on the beaches, maybe a walk to Pintu Rimba (the jungle gate) far south of the turtle beach. It is a natural portal in a rock formation. On one side the ocean, under it a patch of sand, and behind it a rivulet coming down from the lush jungle. Further down the beach is a nice beach with some of the few coconut trees found on Bangkaru. On the way back from Bangkaru, we usually stop at a nice coral island.

Do not bring more than you need. Wrap your stuff in plastic when landing an leaving. You are likely to get wet. The sand on the beaches is extremely fine. You need a torch for the jungle walk, however it is not allowed to use it the turtle beach. Photography with flashlights is not allowed, but lots of photos are available for down loading at no charge. Sometimes schedules change due to weather.

HOW IT ALL STARTED

Click to enlargeYayasan Pulau Banyak (YPB) is the official name of the organization dedicated to the conservation work in Pulau Banyak. It was founded in 1997, but activities started already in 1994. As a result of lobbying and support from the Governor of Aceh at the time, Prof. Dr. Syamsuddin Mahmud, the Ministry of Forestry proclaimed in 1996 that Pulau Banyak was a “Taman Wisata Alam” (kind of Nature Park). A small logging operation was stopped and the forests of Pulau Banyak have since been relatively safe.

The poaching of turtle eggs took a bit longer to stop due to an illegal contract between the poachers and the regency government. Since mid 1995 the official poaching was stopped, but lack of funding made it difficult to guard the beach efficiently. The first activities were funded with private contributions, especially by the Minister of Environment, Mr. Sarwono Kusumaatmadja. After a period of inactivity Yayasan Kehati in Jakarta supplied a small grant enabling us to start guarding the beach by student volunteers. However, the equipment was insufficient and the circumstances on the island very tough. A volunteer fell ill and died during the evacuation back to Banda Aceh. We did not dare to start again until we in 1998 received a one-year grant from Caltex. We managed to make it last for two years.

Yayasan Pulau Banyak also tried to fight against poison and bomb fishing and illegal trawlers from the mainland. A few illegal logging attempts were stopped and bird poachers were caught and birds set free. Funds from The Danish Embassy for socio-economic, cultural and awareness programs increased local support for the turtle conservation.

In 2001 YPB were forced to close down the activities on Pulau Bangkaru. Lack of funds for the turtle conservation and worsening political situation made any work impossible.

In 2006 a Dutch turtle expert visited Pulau Bangkaru and eventually, in November 2007, the egg poachers were ousted once again and the turtle guards reinstalled. This could happen with funds from Paneco and Casa Tortuga. The funding is better, but still far from sufficient. However, the scientific depth and the quality on data collected are on a much higher level. The turtle project on Pulau Bangkaru is the first and the only along the whole west coast of Sumatra. It is even the first project in all of Indonesia with regular turtle tagging. Despite that, we still cannot afford our own boat!

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