Saturday, March 10, 2012

Vietnam makes great efforts to conserve sea turtles

For many years, the reptile which can swim has been hunted by people, who take meat for eating and shells for making handicrafts. Ten years ago, the Bai Thit Turtle Station was established which aimed to prevent people from killing turtles and protect the precious animals. The station gets the rescuing technical support and a part of money from WWF, while it covers a large area in Khanh Hai town of Ninh Hai district in Ninh Thuan province.

According to Nguyen Van Xiem, head of the conservation division of the Nui Chua National Park, besides the Con Dao National Park in Ba Ria-Vung Tau province, Bai Thit is the only beach on the mainland that the turtles choose as the place for them to lay eggs.

Xiem said that the Bai Thit station includes eight rescuers, who are local fishermen. After they realized the importance of the existence of sea turtles, they have become the volunteers to rescue, protect and perform deliveries for the turtles.

In the past, before the day the Bai Thit station was set up, the place was the “dead place” for many sea turtle species. In the months when turtles go ashore to lay eggs, local residents try to hunt for the turtles, catch mother turtles and take away all eggs.

However, later, many of the local residents – the turtle killers – have become the “safeguards” who have been playing a very important role in protecting sea turtles – now called the “residents” of Bai Thit.

Over the last decade, the members of the Bai Thit rescue station have protected 50,000 sea turtles and returned them to the sea.

Despite the encouraging results, one still can see a lot of problems. According to WWF, prior to 2003, seven sea turtle species in the world arrived in Bai Thit beach annually to lay eggs. But nowadays, only green turtles come here. Other turtle species, including Dermochelys coriacea, have been listed as highly endangered species.

Xiem believes that the other turtle species do not come to Bai Thit any more, not because Bai Thit has become unsafe enough. It is highly possible that the turtles have been hunted and killed.

Xiem said that local residents, who have been trained about turtle conservation, always have the sense of protecting sea turtles, and they would call for the rescue team if they discover the turtles in distress. However, people from other provinces do not act this way. They would try to catch the turtles, because turtles’ meat is delicious, while the shells are valuable because people can make expensive handicrafts with the shells,

Also according to Xiem, the material facilities at Bai Thi station are too poor which have been hindering the rescue works. The rescuers have to work at night, because turtles only go ashore to lay eggs at night. Despite the hard work, every rescuer can get 300,000 dong a month, sourced from the WWF’s project’s expenses. The modest income, which is only enough to feed them for one week, has discouraged the rescuers.

Meanwhile, if the rescuers spend the nights on fishing on the sea, their income would be much higher. One night fishing could bring the sum of money equal to one month income from the work of rescuer.