The breeding season for sea turtles is between April and October each year, and many of the resort islands around Singapore are focused on making sure that the eggs are protected and the baby turtles make it safely into the sea. The turtle population has been decreasing because the eggs are seen as an expensive delicacy. Apart from humans really not needing to eat more than they already do, all creatures have their role to play and turtles are a very important ‘balancer’ in the sea ecosystem.
There are a few things we can do to help them survive in the sea. And we can definitely help keep them safe when on land! We asked the team at Telunas Resorts a few turtle questions and how humans can help. You can read up on their own turtle protection programme too.
What kind of sea turtles can you find around this area?
Indonesia: According to profauna.net, in the world, there are seven sea turtle species, six of which live in Indonesia. They are the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), flatback sea turtle (Natator depressus) and also the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta).
Malaysia: Malaysia is blessed with four marine turtle species out of seven known in the world: the green, hawksbill, olive ridley and leatherback turtles (WWF).
Singapore: The hawksbill and green turtles are the most commonly sighted sea turtles in Singapore (NParks). These are the species seen most commonly at Telunas as well.
Turtles can lay up to 100 or more eggs at a time, and pregnant sea turtles will most likely go back to the same beach where they hatched (NOAA). Flatbacks can lay about 50 eggs while hawksbills can lay over 200 eggs at a time. Also, sea turtles can nest multiple times per season – an average of between two to eight nests per season (conserveturtles.org).
What can humans do to help them?
From the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration):
- Use reusable water bottles, plastic bags, straws, etc. All these things can and will end up in the oceans, often harming sea turtles (they can mistake plastic for food, choking themselves or even getting entangled in plastic).
- If you fish, be mindful about fishing gear or fishing lines that you leave behind in the ocean. Take your trash and broken gear home with you and dispose of it correctly.
- Participate in ocean clean-ups. Be mindful of the trash you leave behind when you go to the beach and pick up any trash you see on beaches that could be harmful not just to sea turtles, but other marine animals. Balloons also very often end up in oceans; try avoiding the use of balloons.
- Fill in holes and knock down sandcastles before you leave the beach – they can become obstacles for sea turtles trying to reach the beach for nesting season. The same goes for any beach equipment: chairs, umbrellas, etc.
- Keep beaches dark (especially areas you know are prone to be visited by sea turtles). Bright lights are disorienting for sea turtles and they can discourage the turtles from coming to the beach to nest.
- Keep a safe distance from sea turtles if you meet them (in the sea or on the beach)! Don’t try to touch or feed them, especially if they are nesting or hatching!
- Reduce the amount of harmful chemicals that you use in daily life. Find eco-friendly and biodegradable solutions.
Why are turtles important in the sea ecosystem?
According to seeturtles.org, sea turtles are a “keystone species”. This means that they play a very important role in influencing their environment and other species. They help keep population numbers in check. For example, leatherbacks eat jellyfish (jellyfish eat larval fish, meaning that there will be less fish that grow into maturity) and hawksbills eat sponges in the coral reefs (sponges can outgrow the corals and eventually kill the reef).
Sea turtle nesting seasons themselves are a great source of food and nutrients for the ecosystem and other species. Eggs and hatchlings that don’t survive provide lots of nutrients for surrounding vegetation on the beaches. Birds, fish, mammals like raccoons and others rely on plentiful hatchlings to survive during nesting season.
Sea turtles are grazers, so they feed on the seagrass. Grazing on seagrass keeps the seagrass beds healthy, which also benefits the ecosystem because seagrass stores carbon and produces oxygen.
Can visitors see the turtles at Telunas? When and how?
Telunas Resorts proudly hosts hawksbill sea turtles. We’ve built a small make-shift hatchery to make sure a new generation of baby turtles safely reach the oceans every year. Nesting season usually occurs around April to November and we usually invite guests to partake in releasing them into the ocean. Due to the uncertainty of how many nests are successfully laid and how many eggs actually hatch from each batch, we can’t guarantee or schedule when we release the hatchlings.
What are the survival rates of baby turtles?
As the NOAA explains, hatchlings on the beach must escape natural predators like birds, crabs, and monitor lizards to make it to the sea. Seabirds and fish can then consume the hatchlings once they’re in the water. Few babies survive to adulthood, with estimates ranging from one in 1,000 to one in 10,000.
What other eco-initiatives does Telunas have?
As a company, Telunas has worked to become more mindful of our plastic consumption. We’ve worked to drastically reduce the amount of single-use plastics on our property and have found ways to continue with operations without them. For example, our trash cans have been redesigned so they don’t need plastic liners. We’ve found ways of wrapping and transporting items with reusable bags. We’ve significantly reduced our availability of disposable water bottles on our property. We sweep the beach multiple times each day to collect and extract rubbish from marine ecosystems. And we also invite guests to participate in scheduled rubbish clean-up activities.
Read our roundup for more information on resorts and short breaks from Singapore.