Working on a public tip-off, officers from Gianyar Police secured 13 live green turtles from an Avanza vehicle parked beside the Ida Bagus Mantra bypass road in the village of Ketewel, Sukawati, late on Wednesday night. It is not yet known who the owner of the car is.
Yesterday morning, officers from the Natural Resources Conservation Center (KSDA) and Ubud veterinary students came to examine and treat the poor turtles at Gianyar Police headquarters. Wet towels were placed over the turtles’ shells to keep them cool and moist while they were measured.
“The smallest turtle is estimated to be 30 years old. The big ones could be more than 50 years,” said Nyoman Yasa of the KSDA yesterday, as quoted by Bali Post.
The turtles have since been taken to the turtle conservation center in Serangan for rehabilitation. Meanwhile, police are still searching for the owner of the car and other responsible parties.
It is suspected that the turtles were captured as part of the illegal turtle meat trade. Green turtles are particularly prized for their meat, which in the past has been consumed in Balinese dishes like satay and lawar (a fiery mix of chili, spices, coconut, vegetables, and meat).
Despite the fact that the trading of all turtle species, turtle products, and their eggs is now prohibited under Indonesian law, the meat is reportedly still available on the black market. In 2017, police seized 400 kilograms of turtle meat during an inspection in Kuta.
Here in Bali, where turtle meat played an important role in the religious ceremonies of yore, the BKSDA can provide a limited quota of turtles to villages for traditional rituals, but only with the express consent of the PHDI (local Hindu religious group).
But the knowledge that the population of endangered green turtles is still decreasing in Indonesian waters may force some hard considerations about that practice to be made.