Authorities on the Indonesian island Bali released 33 endangered green sea turtles into the ocean on Saturday. The turtles were rescued from poachers in December.
Indonesia has become a hub for marine turtle trafficking, feeding demand from countries like China, Malaysia and Vietnan. Under Indonesian law, anyone convicted of involvement in the illegal trade is punishable by five years in prison.
The green sea turtles were being rehabilitated at the Bali Conservation and Natural Resources Agency, authorities said.
“With the release, hopefully they go on and reproduce again because the more green turtles in the sea, the more plankton will be protected for life and more fish too,” Ahmadi Heri Purwono, deputy chief of navy staff, said.
“Let’s support them so they can live and thrive here, and they come ashore to lay their eggs, let’s protect the beach, don’t damage the beach or build a water breaker. They need places to lay eggs and breed,” he added.
Locals and toursist gathered on Kuta beach to watch the release. “This is a rare animal that must be preserved, don’t kill it, don’t hunt it. Sometimes I still meet people who eat it which they think tastes good. But because it’s a rare and protected animal, let’s protect this turtle together,” the 46-year old tourist Merry Christian told news agency Reuters.
The population of green turtles, one of the largest sea turtles, has declined significantly in recent years due to poaching, loss of beach nesting places and getting caught in fishing gears.
The world’s growing plastics crisis also affects them. According to the World Wildlife Fund, many turtles have plastic in their stomachs because they mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, and eat them.
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