Indonesia: Thousands of baby turtles get first taste of the sea

A baby turtle is seen as it is being released at a beach in Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia, on Aug 7. - Reuters

GIANYAR BEACH, Indonesia, Aug 7 (Reuters): More than 10,000 baby turtles were released into the sea off the Indonesian island of Bali, as part of conservationists' attempts to boost the population of a vulnerable species and promote environmental protection.

Conservation groups carried crates each full of dozens of tiny turtles to the island's Gianyar beach and encouraged local people and volunteers to line up on the sand and release the hatchlings together.

The turtles, just a few inches long, scurried over the black sand and pebbles as the tide splashed over them.

"It's really exciting to see all of these turtles being released into the wild," said American volunteer Jessica Lieberman on Friday (Aug 7), adding she hoped they would survive.

The Olive Ridley turtles are among the most abundant sea turtles but are still considered vulnerable because there are few places in which they will nest.

The turtles should typically weigh between 34-50 kg (75-110 lb) as an adult and grow to 60-70cm long (24-28 inches).

Flavianus Erwin Putranto, a conservation volunteer, said turtle eggs were appearing in fewer places on Bali than before, but programmes to help protect them were seeing success.

"We are able to collect and save them.

"Hopefully we can hatch more turtles and release them back into the ocean," He said.

Sea turtle populations have declined in recent years due to hunting, loss of beach nesting sites, over-harvesting of their eggs and being caught in fishing gear.

Bali authorities released 25 of the larger green turtles into the sea on Wednesday after their rescue last month during a raid on illegal traffickers.

Agus Budi Santoso, head of the Bali Natural Resources and Conservation Center, recommended creating a "green zone" of designated beaches for turtles to lay eggs safely, away from hotels and constriction sites. - Reuters
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