Koggala Sea Turtle Farm & Hatchery
Sea turtles are magnificent, endangered creatures. The fact I was going to see one up close at the hatchery made me want to pinch myself. I was looking forward to learning more about one of my favourite animals. However, nothing will top seeing them in the wild.
*This article is very in depth and I have tried to make it an enjoyable but easy read, with lots of important bullet points on both Koggala Sea Turtle Farm & Hatchery and lots of fun information on sea turtles.
Grab a nice hot cuppa or if you’re lucky and in a hot country like me (hehe) grab a cold fruit juice ?
Koggala Sea Turtle Farm & Hatchery
When you visit a ‘sanctuary’ or ‘conservation’ place etc you believe that it is in fact a safe and happy place for rescued animals to live, right? Unfortunately, the word ‘sanctuary’ etc is being used nowadays to trap and deceive tourists. I believe Koggala sea turtle farm & hatchery have good intentions with their project and are raising awareness for endangered sea turtles but I sadly would not recommend them.
• Turtles are solitary animals which roam for miles and miles. Here the tanks are basic concrete tanks and are VERY small. I believe rescued animals should be placed in the most authentic environment possible. There was barely even sand at the bottom of the tanks, yet alone any sea plants.
• Injured & disabled turtles, i.e the ones with missing fins, will never return to the wild. Sadly, the hatchery cannot afford prosthetic fins or gas removal surgery (more on this later) to release them back into the wild. These turtles at least should have better tanks to live in.
• Our guide explained that because they are Buddhist they cannot release the injured & disabled turtles back into the wild as they will most likely die. Buddhists don’t believe in killing a single being.
• The hatchlings aren’t released straight away. They are kept in the tank for up to a month. Our guide told me that only the weak ones were kept behind but this simply isn’t true. Another guide explained that they buy the turtle eggs from local fishermen and sometimes poachers for a fee. Visitors then pay 1500 rupees to release them. If there are turtles left after a month they then get released by the staff.
• There were turtles there with no injuries. I know this because I asked our guide and he explained they were there for ‘experimental’ purposes.
• Some other turtles appear to be healthy but (apparently) are sick due to eating plastic.
• You are encouraged to touch the turtles.
• The boss gets 50% of any earnings. Our guide did not know what happened to any donations.
• They are raising awareness and educating people & children about this amazing species. Our guide was very informative and seemed passionate about his work.
• They are educating people on the dangers of plastic. However vague, this is still important.
• Turtle eggs are protected and eventually released. This is extremely vital to conserving sea turtles. Only 80% of eggs hatch, 60% survive in the ocean and only 1-2% make it to adulthood. An average turtles lifespan is 80 years old. Due to threats turtles now only live until an average of 40 years old.
• Most injured turtles get a second chance at life. (I hope).
• Tourism provides sufficient work for the locals.
Although I believe Koggala Sea Turtle Farm & Hatchery have good intentions I think the cons definitely out way the pros for me. It has such great potential and could be a wonderful place if they improved their standards.
Knowing that some of the injured & disabled turtles will never be free broke my heart. Do we rescue them and let them live in a small concrete tank, possibly prolonging their suffering until they die or should we let nature take its course? If it was a possibility to rescue the turtle, provide them with a new, prosthetic fin and later release them back into the wild then that would be amazing. Unfortunately, they do not have the funds at this Hatchery so therefor the turtle will remain in the tank until death.
I think the protection of hatchlings is incredible and being able to release one into the wild is a feeling I’ll never forget. However, it would be even better if they had organised events where tourists, locals and children could pay a donation fee to watch the turtle eggs hatch and make their journey to the ocean naturally. Or, people could sponsor an egg each and watch the turtle make its way to the wild. That would mean less handling, no waiting in a small tank and still making money for wages and donations for the hatchery. Positive outcome all round ??
Read on for more turtle info….
10 Fun facts about sea turtles
• sea turtles are one of earths most ancient creatures. Estimated to have been around for over 100 million years.
• Green turtles have an average life span of 80 years. Other turtles live shorter lives.
• There are 7 species of sea turtles, which are Green turtle?, Hawksbill?, Leatherback?, Kemp’s Ridley?, Olive Ridley, Loggerhead? & Flatback.
• 5 of these breeds are endangered?
• Leatherbacks are the largest of the species and can grow up to 6.5 feet long and weigh a staggering 2000 lbs.
• Temperature of sand determines the sex of a turtle. Above 30C = Female. Below 30C = Male. That said the gender of a sea turtle can’t actually be determined by external characteristics. However, once they mature male sea turtles have a much thicker, longer tail than females.
• Females return to the same beach they were born to lay their eggs.
• Some turtles can migrate as far as 1400 miles.
• Sea turtles are classed as a keystone species. Sea turtles help to maintain the oceans environment. Meaning they are vital to the ecosystem.
• A turtle diet consists of jellyfish, seaweed, crabs, shrimp, snails, mollusks, sponges & algae.
Threats to turtles
Turtles face many threats in the wild. Most commonly turtles are eaten by tiger sharks or orcas/killer whales. Turtle eggs are also eaten by raccoons, stray dogs and sea birds. But the biggest threat to turtles are humans.
Here is why:
• Turtles are killed for their meat, skin, eggs & shells.
• Some believe that eating a turtle will lengthen their life span like that of a turtle.
• Their shells are sold to make tortoise shell glasses. (I actually didn’t know that literal shell was used).
• Turtles are captured accidentally in fishing gear. Causing injuries which will lead to death and drowning. Turtles need to surface for air to survive.
• Habitat destruction.
• Climate change affects sand temperature which then affects the sex of hatchlings.
• And lastly, one of the biggest causes of turtle deaths is PLASTIC.
Plastic is destroying the ocean
Turtles accidentally eat tiny pieces of plastic which causes them to become ill. They cannot regurgitate the plastic due to their long descending throat. When the turtle becomes sick they cannot eat. Starvation then causes their stomach to fill with gas, the gas causes them to float, making them unable to duck and swim under water. This is also known as ‘bubble butt’. As you can imagine a floating turtle is easy prey for predators. If, by luck a turtle survives being eaten they will wash up onto our shores. Sometimes they are rescued, get treatment (gas removal surgery) and released, sometimes they are captured and eventually killed.
The current population of turtles is actually unknown. Male and juvenile turtles never return to shore so it is hard to keep an accurate track of them. They are an endangered species and it is up to us to ensure this incredible species survives.
What you can do to help:
• Set yourself plastic free challenges.
• Sponsor or adopt a turtle through wildlife conservations.
• Go fish free or (if you must) eat fish use only from SUSTAINABLE sources.
• DO NOT touch any wild sea turtles when snorkelling or diving. It causes them to get stressed and puts them in danger. They could also bite. For instance, a loggerhead turtle can take off a finger, sometimes an entire hand!
• Help protect turtle eggs on your local beaches (if you’re lucky). Tell a local ethical sanctuary where they are. If you witness any hatching then guide them to the ocean to protect them from predators. They must make the beach journey to the shore to help them imprint so don’t help them along. Absolutely do not touch or shine any artificial light on them. Touching a turtle can risk their chance of survival in the wild.
• Visit an ethical sanctuary to learn all about these amazing creatures.
Handling of the hatchlings from the hatchery was necessary to release them into the ocean. I later regretted doing so. At the time I thought I was doing a good deed by setting the baby turtle free. Now, I feel guilty for funding and encouraging this practice further. Something that was meant to be an exciting new learning experience turned into feelings of guilt and regret. Always do your own research BEFORE visiting. I regrettably took a someone’s word for it :’(
I hope you found this article informative. These are some of my personal beliefs and I totally respect that it’s up to you to make your own decision on visiting Koggala Sea Turtle Farm & Hatchery. I believe responsible tourism is vital and it is our duty to make informed and ethical decisions when it comes to travelling and life in general.
Thank you for reading 🙂