Turtle hatcheries around the world that claim to be focused on doing good may actually be more interested in cashing in on gullible tourists than helping animals. And in some cases, the hatcheries may actually be harming turtles. These are the findings of online travel company Responsible Travel, which recently conducted an investigation into turtle hatcheries around the world.
As a result, the company took the action of removing some trips involving turtle hatcheries from its offerings. In other cases, the company worked with operators to modify trip itineraries. “The ethics and practices of turtle hatcheries are not widely discussed or written about,” Responsible Travel CEO Justin Francis said. “However, as we delved a little deeper, problems such as overcrowding, the negative impact of handling turtles and eggs, the detrimental effect of keeping hatchlings in tanks and many other issues quickly became apparent.”
The company’s investigation, which included speaking with NGOs, was prompted by a concerned traveler. The process resulted in Responsible Travel developing a new set of guidelines aimed at helping travelers and travel companies identify good and bad offerings.
“Many of our trips include the opportunity to observe nesting or hatching sea turtles, either as part of a holiday or as a volunteer placement. In many cases, well-managed tourism contributes to the conservation of sea turtles, six out of the seven species of which are classified as vulnerable or endangered,” the new Responsible Tourism guidelines state.
The guidelines go on to note, however, that in order for such hatcheries to be successful, strict parameters must be followed, including:
— There must be no interference in the nesting process.
— The numbers of tourists and/or volunteers must be tightly controlled in order to avoid causing distress to the turtles.
The guidelines point out that in some cases, there’s a great deal of human involvement in the nesting and hatching process. The eggs may be removed from nests and placed in hatcheries, either in artificial nests or reburied in protected parts of the beach.
Hatchlings from these efforts may be assisted by volunteers once they emerge or held back for later release. In more extreme cases, the hatchlings are kept in tanks.
Unfortunately, while such hatcheries and tanks have usually been established with the best intentions, they’re not always beneficial to the sea turtles, according to Responsible Travel.
“It’s clear that some establishments are ‘cashing in’ on oblivious tourists who are being led to believe they are helping with turtle conservation during a volunteer project or holiday when in fact, quite the opposite is true,” stated Francis. “Turtle hatcheries should be a last resort; if the threat to the eggs from poaching or erosion is so great they can no longer remain in situ.”
The company is hoping its new guidelines will raise awareness about the importance of both travel companies and travelers themselves asking questions of the places they wish to visit in advance of going there.
This is an excerpt from an article first published on Travelpulse