|Asia Turtle Trouble|
On 8 May 2007, 296 Hawksbill turtles and 90 Green turtles preserved with formalin, were found on a Chinese fishing vessel that was intercepted by the Indonesian authorities, off the eastern coast of Kalimantan. The Hainanese boat carried over 20 Chinese seamen was detained. Besides the Turtle Foundation, the major news agencies also reported the hideous haul.
Major Turtle Seizures in the past 4 years:
The interval between the dates, suggests that this may be the tip of an iceberg we know very little about, whilst the Chinese fishermen in boats from Hainan appear as the main culprits. Years go by and the statistics don't really change for the better. Experts in the field say that if this pattern persists, the protected species can be wiped out in about 3 years! There are organizations aplenty for turtles that have numerous meetings all over the world; reams of documents, Agreements and MOUs have been signed that neither those who drafted it or those who are subjected to it can humanly remember. People have problems remembering what they had for breakfast and here we have all these details that the average man in the street or on some fishing boat from some distant country is expected to know, let alone bother to remember and adhere. Quite a tall order.
What's with the turtles anyway? Whether they get sick, tangled in nets or caught for decorative use or some gastronomic delicacy, what's the big deal? Didn't the dinosaur go extinct or the Dodo bird for that matter? Life goes on; it's called evolution! None of us is going to live forever! If we had $1, do we spend it tagging turtles or would we feed a hungry human child? There are lots of hungry people without homes all over this world. Should we not sort that out first before even lending a dime to some long living creature that we rarely see, work, have interaction or do business with! So who really benefits from this hue and cry about turtles? The poachers or the conservationists, or the rest of humankind? If we conducted a poll of all the human beings in the world, guess what, the vast majority may not even have seen a turtle in their lives, let alone know their sad and precariously endangered status! So what exactly are the benefits and to whom?
Ironically, the poachers feed some hungry human beings. Of course they handsomely enrich their rich masters. Now how different is that from the fossil fuel situation? They too feed many mouths, and put a lot more in the pockets of a few, besides being the cause of the occasional war between human beings every now and again. Many reports suggest that the biggest polluters of our air are the ships that ply our seas and oceans. How ironic! They float and sail upon the sources of energy and fuel that is literally available for free, namely the wind, the sun and the hydrogen in the water, and yet for some strange reason we continue to pay astronomically for the use of fossil fuels to move them! Don't they affect our ecosystems in some astronomical way? In that perspective, what are a handful of turtle poachers compared to them?
Drafting and ratifying more MOUs and Agreements that prosecute the fishermen whilst the masterminds remain free and anonymous in big fancy houses decorated with formalin stuffed turtles, is one route. Yet, Leatherbacks aren't really things we could stuff in a false-bottomed suitcase to smuggle around; but with all the hyper security between our borders, the turtle smuggling appears alive and kicking. How does that happen?
It appears that whatever drives the use and sale of fossil fuels, apparently drives turtle poaching too. There's a need and a demand. Get rid, or change this 'driver' to a more eco-friendly one, and hey presto! we virtually clean up our skies and turtles survive! So why are we not doing this in a big way? Your guess is as good as mine, though speculation is rife and aplenty. Instead of the 'whys and wherefores', what if we asked ourselves, 'How can we change the present eco-unfriendly 'driver' to an eco-friendly one? It suddenly ceases to remain the domain of the few who own and run fossil fuel organizations or turtle conservations. It empowers each and everyone of us instead. We can be collective owners of the situation and become responsible for the outcome. We can leave this power in the hands of few who do the least and earn the most and dictate how we live, or we could empower ourselves and be responsible for the quality of our lives be it human, fish, animal, insect, plant or forest. Utopian?
Well being a conservation directed almanac, we had the choice to angle this story accordingly. We chose a provocative one, and conservation is still the goal. We look forward to the awakening and sharing of thoughts to make this world a better one each day. Share them at our website, or send them to us. It will make great reading and inspiration for our next issue in September!
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