Five species of sea turtle found in Sri Lanka are listed by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as either critically endangered or endangered. Despite international legislation protecting these turtles, they are still declining due to harvest for eggs, meat, or shell, and nesting and feeding habitat destruction. The Turtle Conservation Project seeks to involve local coastal communities in conservation and at the same time to provide opportunities, facilities, and benefits from the proposed activities to generate an additional income, to develop their skills and to increase their knowledge in order to reduce the dependency pressure on heavily exploited coastal natural resources in Sri Lanka.
Project Update: January 2004
Coastal communities of Sri Lanka depend on their surrounding natural resources for daily survival. As a result of this factor, very important coastal habitats and coastal fauna such as the coral reefs, sea grass beds, mangroves, marine turtles and other coastal vegetation are under the serious threat of extinction. The completed project activities were especially designed to address the socio economic issues in coastal areas of Sri Lanka. These programs had impacts on coastal communities and also on natural resources, which are in rapid rate of decline or over utilization.
Education and awareness program for members of the local fisheries societies
A Project Officer was employed to conduct the education and awareness programs. Presidents of the local fisheries Societies were contacted to fix a date for the education program. Once the date was fixed, all the members of the fisheries society were informed and invited for the education program. The project officer then delivered a slide presentation on sea turtle biology, conservation and management. Later, a discussion was conducted with the participants regarding sea turtles and fisheries industry. Possibilities were discussed regarding the reduction of sea turtle mortality rates in fisheries activities and active participation of community members in sea turtle conservation and data collection such as tag recovery information. A leaflet on sea turtles has been produced and distributed during the education program. Copies of the previously produced turtle posters were also distributed among the fishermen during the programs.
Initiation of a coastal primary school in Bundala coastal village
The TCP provided support to build a new building for the primary school in Bundala village. A trained primary school teacher from Bundala village was employed by the TCP to teach the children. Baby chairs, desks, writing boards, toys, children books and other necessary items have been purchased and donated for the primary school. Parents were informed about this program and the opening ceremony was organized with their participation.
Initiation of a free English teaching class in Bundala village
A teacher was selected and employed to conduct the free English classes for the children. Teaching materials have been purchased. TCP foreign volunteers assisted the local teacher to teach English.
Initiation of a model medicinal garden in a Panadura temple
A suitable place was selected to initiate the proposed medicinal garden in Panadura temple (Siri Siddharththa Maha Viharaya). The land was prepared for the nursery. Seeds and small plants of herbs were purchased and grown in the medicinal garden. A garden keeper was employed to maintain the garden fulltime. TCP local and foreign volunteers also maintain the medicinal garden. Students of the temple also participated in maintenance.
Expansion of the Mangrove rehabilitation program in Puttlam lagoon
A suitable place was selected to initiate the proposed mangrove rehabilitation program in Puttlam lagoon. Community members were asked to collect the mangrove seedlings from the adult plants. Seedlings were distributed among the community members to grow them up to a certain height. TCP then asked villagers to introduce them in to the degraded areas of the Puttlam lagoon. Several community members were employed to look after the plants (Fencing, protection from Buffaloes and goats) and maintain the mangrove plantation. TCP's local and foreign volunteers also help to maintain the rehabilitated mangrove plants.
Production of educational materials for education and awareness programs
Leaflets on sea turtles, mangroves and medicinal plants were designed and printed for the purpose of distribution among the participants during the education programs. A turtle poster/brochure was designed and printed to distribute among the coastal community members and school children.
Project impact on coastal community members
The completed project had a vast array of involvement from local coastal community members. TCP was able to train them in natural resource conservation and management which included the sustainable utilization of natural resources. The program aimed to provide opportunities, facilities, and benefits to those locals who are dependent on natural resources in a destructive manner. Conducted activities had great impact on generating additional income (eg. direct employments) for coastal community members and also to develop their skills (eg. English teaching program) and to increase their knowledge (eg. Education & Awareness program) in order to reduce the dependency and pressure on heavily exploited coastal natural resources in Sri Lanka. The planted mangroves will provide many environmental and economic benefits for the local fishing communities in Puttlam area. The model medicinal garden program will act as a model and therefore, others can duplicate the similar program in anywhere else. A nutritious herbal drink will be produced from the leaves of the cultivated medicinal plants and will be supplied to the primary school children in future. Thus this program will help to up grade the health conditions of the kids. The primary school program reduces the cost for parents as TCP pays a salary for the teacher and also money is not collected from community members to purchase educational materials as TCP provides them. Leaflets and the brochure increases the community members knowledge of sea turtle biology, conservation and management.
Project impact on wildlife
Marine and coastal ecosystems are heavily exploited by human activities in Sri Lanka. Therefore, implementation of protection, conservation and management programs are vital for the further existence of threatened species of fauna and flora. The mangrove rehabilitation program provides and improves habitats for many coastal species. Conservation of mangrove habitats will increase the fish yield and therefore supports the other coastal habitats such as coral reef and sea grass beds. Both these habitats provide important feeding grounds for sea turtles and therefore, the conservation of mangroves will indirectly have a positive impact on sea turtle populations.
The medicinal garden program will allow vanishing indigenous medicinal plant species of Sri Lanka to survive. Increased education and awareness among the community members will create an enthusiasm and encouragement in conservation of coastal and marine resources such as coral reefs, mangroves, sea grass beds, sea turtles, etc. Community involvement in conservation activities should increase due to encouragement from the educational programs. Creation of education and awareness on these vanishing ecosystems that consist of wild fauna and wild flora is therefore very important in order to reduce human pressure on natural resources.