Bali has seen more and more reports of sea turtles stranded on its shores this year, with a local NGO putting the number at almost two dozen since late January.
According to Westerlaken Foundation and Yayasan Bali Bersih, at least 22 sea turtles have washed up in Bali since Jan. 24. This includes cases that they responded to independently and cases handled by other groups.
Rodney Westerlaken, chairperson of Westerlaken Foundation, said three of the turtles they handled had plastic sticking out of their mouths when found. Two other turtles, which underwent necropsy, had a fishing hook and a ghost net inside their bodies.
“It is clear that pollution is a big issue,” Rodney told Coconuts via email, alluding to the discovery of plastic and discarded fishing gear on the dead sea turtles. “Though other factors like the extreme weather can play a role.”
Shandy Wijaya, chairperson of Yayasan Bali Bersih, said the increasing number of reports may be due to the more prevalent role of citizen journalism, though the frequency at which the dead sea turtles are washing up on Bali’s shores this year should still be a cause of concern.
“In our opinion this year is quite extreme,” Shandy said, pointing to other stranding cases that happened recently in Bali, including that of two sperm whales in December and a bryde’s whale last month.
“These are events not often happening. Every stranding is a reason to worry and to try to make sense out of the cause.”
Both Shandy and Rodney emphasized the importance of reporting any stranding, noting that people can send them a message on Instagram at @westerlakenfoundation or @yayasanbalibersih for a fast response.
Yayasan Bali Bersih is the Indonesian counterpart of Westerlaken Foundation, whose programs are focused on marine environment, children rights, as well as emergency relief.
With strandings typically attracting the attention of local residents, the organizations also highlighted the importance of giving first responders space to do their job, especially as a precaution against the coronavirus.
“Being able to handle a stranding, especially when the animal is still alive, is more important than a selfie,” Rodney said.
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