Conservationists in Bali have released about two dozen green turtles back into the their natural habitat after rescuing them from suspected illegal poachers.
Marine officials on the popular tourist island helped 25 green sea turtles return to the wild on Wednesday on Kuta Beach in Denpasar. The sea turtles, some of which can weigh upwards of 300kg, were placed on the sand by conservationists who stroked their heads and gently guided them to the sea. Photos show the turtles digging their flippers into the sand before scrambling into the water.
The turtles were among 36 seized in a raid last month that saw the arrest of seven suspected traffickers in the Serangan waters. The remaining 11 are currently being rehabilitated and are expected to return to the sea later in the month. Speaking to Reuters, Agus Budi Santoso, head of the Bali Natural Resources Conservation Center, said the remaining turtles need to be assessed to ensure they are healthy enough to adapt to life in the wild.
"If they cannot adapt to the environment, we cannot release them," Santoso said. "Hopefully these 25 turtles will survive so that they can lay their eggs again," he added.
Six of the world’s seven species of sea turtle inhabit Indonesia’s waters and under the country's wildlife protection laws, anyone convicted of involvement in the trafficking of marine turtles can be jailed for up to five years.
Nearly all the species of sea turtles are classified as endangered, with three of the seven existing species being critically endangered, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Sea turtles virtually everywhere are slaughtered for their eggs, meat, skin and shells and suffer from poaching and over-exploitation. Plastics and discarded fishing gear also harm and kill sea turtles through ingestion and entanglement, while chemical pollutants in the sea weaken their immune systems.