Pacsafe’s love affair with the sea turtle started very early. When considering a logo that summed up our brand, an intrepid explorer of the world’s oceans was perfect. Since then, the turtle has become more than just a symbol of Safe Travels, it’s turtle is our guiding light when making decisions about environmental impacts of our product, as well as extra charity efforts. As part of that, the Pacsafe Turtle Fund helps support on-the-ground projects that work to preserve this amazing creature. One project that received a grant from the fund in 2018 is HAKA. They are an NGO whose vision is the long-term social, financial and environmental health of Aceh Province in Indonesia.
HAKA began a turtle conservation program on Palau Bangkaru in 2013 because continued marine turtle decline in the region was having negative environmental, economic and cultural consequences. We caught up with Luke Swainson from HAKA to chat a bit more about what they’re doing at the moment and how they’re working to stop turtle poaching in this beautiful part of the world.
Read on and find out how you can also help their amazing efforts…
Thanks for your time, Luke. What has been HAKA’s key aim for the use of the grant from Pacsafe?
There are 3 key aims we initially set out when applying for the grant.
First, to continue to effectively patrol the turtle nesting site in the area, and gather data about the viability of the turtle populations via monitoring efforts.
Second, to establish a volunteer initiative to provide on-going technical and financial assistance to the turtle conservation and community development aspects of this program.
And third, to create more awareness locally and internationally about the program, including the importance and uniqueness of Bangkaru Island.
How has all been going to date? What have you been able to achieve so far?
The presence of the rangers deters the poachers. 100% of the eggs have been poached at times in the past when we have been unable to fund a ranger presence on the island. Now there is very little, if any poaching occurring, roughly less than 5%. In fact, there has been no poaching at all over the last 5 months.
The volunteer program is up and running and going well. We have about 5-10 volunteers going to Bangkaru each month, which help with the turtle monitoring patrols, beach cleaning, teaching the rangers English and ensuring the camp is running smoothly.
We’ve also created this promotional video to help with awareness of the issue.
Is there anything extra you’ve been able to do, that wasn’t in your initial plan or vision?
We have recently recruited a new Program Manager, which was outside our initial budget. This is a higher level position than originally envisaged for this program, but we deemed it to be essential to improve our coordination with all relevant people and organisations from the community, local government, tourists and volunteers and other businesses and NGOs.
How important are grants like the Pacsafe Turtle fund and other donors to your overall efforts?
Absolutely essential. We have plans in place to secure long-term funding for this program through partnerships with local businesses – Mahi-Mahi Surf Resort and Aluan Virgin Coconut Oil. These businesses have been established through Green Bond finance and profit sharing arrangements that provide on-going funding to the conservation of Bangkaru. However, these businesses are still in their infancy and not yet in a position to support all the costs of the Bangkaru program. Hence, why grants are so crucial at this point in time.
What do you think the biggest threat is to marine turtles at this point in time? What’s your toughest challenge?
The biggest challenge is that turtle poaching is very likely to resume the moment the conservation rangers are no longer present on the island. Hence, the threat is that we don’t secure regular funding to keep the rangers on the island.
There is also a lot of pressure from developers to establish resorts on Bangkaru island. There is a risk that if these developments go ahead and are not established, or managed properly, then they could have negative impacts on the turtle nesting site.
Finally, the large amounts of plastic in the ocean are also a significant threat to the health of the turtles. That’s something everyone can do to help with this issue – cut down on the use of single-use plastics, especially shopping bags.
If others want to help support what you do, what’s the best way for them to do that?
There are three key things that would be useful:
1) Direct donations here are always greatly appreciated.
2) You can get involved via the volunteer program here.
3) Or, people can help us generate more exposure about the uniqueness of Bangkaru and the importance of saving it by helping to generate content (come get involved in producing a short documentary), or get active on social media spreading the word of what is happening (both good and bad) in regards to Bangkaru.
To learn more about HAKA and what they do, visit their website at: http://www.haka.or.id/
To learn more about the Pacsafe Turtle Fund click here.