The turtle is a creature with widespread appeal. It is seemingly peaceful and graceful in the water, slow and charmingly ungainly on land. It is always a treat for scuba divers when they encounter a turtle around reefs or swimming in the open sea. The sad truth for wildlife conservation is that many turtle species are struggling to survive in the wild as their habitats are disrupted by human activity. The better known Loggerhead and Green turtle species are endangered, with many lesser known species critically endangered. Some, like the black soft shell turtle, are already extinct in the wild.
Turtles in Goa
An example of the animal conservation work being done to counter this is a turtle preservation programme in Goa, where wildlife conservation activists at the Turtle Protection Centre have reported that thirty five turtle nests have declined to just seven over the last ten years.
Nesting sites are where turtles are particularly vulnerable because newborn turtles must brave the short but difficult route from the nest to the ocean, and because the sites suitable for nesting are themselves declining in number. Accordingly the focus of animal conservation work is protecting these nesting sites. Only around one in a thousand of newborn turtles will grow to become adults, which means succeeding generations are dwindling in size.
Goa is a prime example of a place where tourism is having a negative effect on turtle populations. As the area develops to enhance the capacity for the tourist industry, the turtle’s natural territory is reduced. Furthermore, with increasing visitors to the area, the turtles suffer disruption on beaches that were previously peaceful enough for them to settle.
Part of the wildlife conservation effort in Goa involves guarding nesting grounds where pregnant turtles and their young are most vulnerable.
If this kind of work appeals to you, you might be interested to hear that you can take part in animal conservation work of this type as part of a gap year for adults trip.
Light pollution is traditionally a concern for nocturnal animals, but it can be critical in the lives of turtles, too. The timing of hatchings often coincides with a full moon, because the newborns instinctively head towards the light to reach the sea. As a result, newborn baby turtles can be confused by street lights and houses, which cause them to head away from the sea when they should be crawling towards the relative safety of the water. On a gap year for adults wildlife conservation project, you will take part in campaigns to educate locals about ways to reduce the impact of artificial light on the turtles.
The litter created by tourists or careless locals is often mistaken by turtles as food. Plastic is especially hazardous because it cannot be digested and it resembles the favourite food of turtles: the jellyfish. This means that turtles are often found starved to death with plastic coating their stomachs. Wildlife conservation schemes usually involve collecting rubbish from areas of beach near turtle nesting sites.
On gap year for adults trip of this kind in Goa, you get to enjoy the beauty of the local environment while helping the efforts of a conservation project to preserve it.
Mark Bottell is the General Manager for Worldwide Experience, an online tour operator offering extended breaks focusing on wildlife conservation and various adventurous gap years for adults.
Find More Conservation Articles