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Slipping with their fulminous flippers,
Travel in doubles floating like blissful bubbles,
Swimming in the deep blue sea
Large green shell shining
Little turtle, this is nor farewell
For someday we will meet
May be right near the wishing well…

How it all started:

An idea brainstormed by the members of the Green Club of Royal Institute of Colombo, visiting the Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project seemed like the best option foran educational, yet thoroughly entertaining , annual trip. And indeed, it was so. Our journey, which spanned the entirety of a day, was exhilarating (what with the several accompanying activities like long boat rides and Fish Therapy).

We also had the opportunity to visit the treasure of the Maduganga River– The Mangroves – which act as a bio-lock to the area in giving protection to the variety of aquatic animal and plant life. The Fish Therapy, on the other ‘fin’, was a unique experience altogether as we realised that it went hand in hand with being tickled- mercilessly, I might add. It was as good as therapy to the soul as it was for the feet. Nonetheless the highlight of the entire trip was undoubtedly, the sea turtles.

An introduction:

Strategicallylocated at No:16/A, Galle Road, Mahapalana, Kosgoda, the Sea turtle Project is merely a few footsteps away from the beach and is a project that traces its roots back to 1988. It comprises large, concrete tanks for the numerous sea turtles that are under constant supervision by dedicated volunteers. It is officially run byMr Dudley Perera whose main objective is to protect the endangered turtles of Sri Lanka and their nesting sites. International volunteers (mainly from parts of Europe) help with and gain invaluable experience about turtle conservation and the country. The project thrives by donations made by generous visitors and well-wishers.

Interesting fact: The Kosgoda Project managed to survive the catastrophic after effects of the 2004 Tsunami!

The Sea Turtles:

We were given an adept introduction to the shelled residents who varied in species, age and number. Green turtles (the most common turtle species in Sri Lanka), Hawksbill turtles and Loggerheads were among those with the most beautiful shells.

Sadly, however,we discovered that sea turtle population was not necessarily large since their survival rate was extremely low. Contributing factors for this dropout are bigger predators (including fish and sharks), the illicit trade of turtle shells and meat by poachers on the black market and the degradation of beaches and turtle nesting grounds by humans. As a result, the Hatchery, situated alongside the turtle tanks, is a predominant feature of the Project. Turtle eggs are purchased from fishermen at Rs. 20 per egg and buried at ideal temperatures until they hatch at the Hatchery.

After they hatch, the baby turtles are looked after i.e. fed with tuna and cleaned by the Project volunteers until they mature enough to be able to survive on their own in the oceans. Sadly, however, a few of the turtles we encountered (which included a three-finned turtle named Nemo, an albino green turtle and a severely deformed loggerhead turtle) will not be able to acclimatize to the cutthroat environment of the Indian Ocean due to their defects.

Interesting fact:The mother turtle visits the same beach where she was born around 20 to 25 years earlier in order to lay her own eggs!

Effects of Climate Change:

When we interviewed the experts of the Project, we were advised that climate change (including thermal inertia and the ocean acidification) did not present as major concerns to the turtle population. Yet, the pollution levels in the Indian Ocean were not as bad when compared to other oceans. Unfortunately, in the few cases the turtles do get victimized by the disastrous effects of pollution, is when some mistakenly ingest a plastic bag in the thoughts of being a jellyfish.

Interesting fact: According to experts, there is a way in which temperature directly affects the turtles. When turtle eggs hatch in soil with a temperature of over 29’C, they are born as females. If it is less than 29’C, they are males. As a result of Sri Lanka’s hot climate, 90% of the turtles are female!

What we learnt:

Turtles are endangered creatures that have to be conserved with fervour.
Animals, in general, share this earth with us (the exploiters) and should therefore be conserved with fervour.
Climate change is fast approaching.
Time flies when you are having fun - as was the case with us, the members of the Green Club!

Article Written by SaakshiSelvanathan, Tharushi Dias and ChadiniRamanayake – Green Club of Royal Institute of Colombo

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