These Countries Are Banding Together To Create A Safe Haven For Sea Turtles

Turtles are disappearing at an astonishing rate, as their natural habitats extend beyond human borders. The Philippines has begun an initiative to protect turtles in the Coral Triangle, but they need Malaysia and Indonesia to join them.


May 28 2019, Updated 6:30 p.m. ET

Last month in the Philippines, it was announced at an event hosted by the environmental organization Conservation International that a new initiative to establish a "turtle corridor" had begun. That sounds like a cool place to hang out, but the idea is that it would be a specially protected area intended to preserve sea turtles in a zone called the Coral Triangle.

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The Guardian reports that the turtle corridor is being created in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape, which encompasses waters that are part of territories in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. Protecting sea life is especially challenging in animal conservation, as the certainly have no passports or commitment to staying in one country over another. The sea turtle is especially mobile, and the Coral Triangle is home to six out of seven of those turtle species.

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The Marine Turtle Protected Area Network (MTPAN) would connect all the countries with borders in the area so they could make agreements on how to protect these mighty animals. It would help with establishing rules about fishing, pollution, and dealing with poachers. Turtle meat and eggs are considered a delicacy in the area.

Minda Bairulla is the Superintendent of the Turtle Island Wildlife Sanctuary, which is one of the four MTPAN marine parks in the Philippines. 

“If we are only protecting one area, and the other area is exploiting [turtles]… that is a problem,” explained Bairulla. “We are affected by our neighbors who do not protect their marine ecosystems." 

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The turtles make a personable figurehead for the initiative, but if MTPAN is successful, it will have many benefits for the human population, especially those whose livelihoods depend on sustainable practices in fishing and ocean stewardship. There are many challenges ahead—the Philippines still needs to add seven sites located in Indonesia and Malaysia to the network for it to have the effect they've planned. But it's a huge step in the right direction for turtle conservation in an ecological important part of the world for sea life.

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