Around the island you can find five different species of turtles and there are seven different species of sea turtles in the world. Some of the rarest turtles including Leatherback can be found along Sri Lanka’s Southern Coastline, but this is very rare. Around the Jetwing Lighhouse Hotel you can find four varieties that grace the Indian Ocean waters, from the shallow sea grass beds to the colourful reefs of the Coral Triangle. The four seen on a regular basis around the hotel are Green, Hawksbill, Loggerhead, and Olive Ridley. I learn from the hotel naturalist that these turtle species regularly come to the Jetwing Lighthouse Hotel beach for nesting only at nightime, because it is safe from predators. They usually nest just before or just after full moon and lay about 40 to 120 eggs of which 80 per cent hatch and survival rate is mixed and can be as little as 5per cent.
As part many of amazing activities the hotel offers is the beach walk information programme with Anoma, who is helping to protect these nests by going out at night to source the nests where about and if considered vulnerable he is putting them in protective hatcheries. Anoma explains, “We work hand in hand with the Department of Wildlife and Coast Conservation to stop the increasing numbers of people stealing the turtle eggs to cook and worse still killing the female turtle for its meat. Water and land monitors are also a problem for these beautiful marine creatures. Crabs can be an issue and with decreasing numbers of eggs being laid due to sea line erosion, constructions along the coastline taking more and more of the beaches the problems are growing daily for these beautiful creatures.” This along with the stone barriers to protect the roads from any further erosion are also creating problems for the sea turtles, whom are finding less and less safe nesting areas.
Marine turtles have been roaming the world’s oceans for about 190 million years. Five of these species regularly visit the sandy beaches of Sri Lanka to nest, but in the rough season there are less nesting areas. Mostly you can see them dig holes in the sand around December to April. Throughout the world, marine turtles are hunted and butchered for their flesh and shells. Shells being turned into ornaments ranging from jewellery boxes to buttons, combs and colonial hat stands.
Human activities have tipped the scales against the survival of these ancient mariners hence Anoma says “People can make a difference by not buying turtle shell souvenirs and respecting their natural habitat by not throwing rubbish. The turtles see rubbish such as discarder plastic bags and bottles as jellyfish and can as result choke and die from eating them. This is relatively new problem as plastic was previously banana leaf wrappings so naturally broken down in the environment.
In the already popular Whale Centre in reception Anoma provides information regarding turtle’s marine life, which has a variety of notice boards, films, videos, photographs and books one can go through.