How turtle-feeding trips for tourists can actually be fatal

How turtle-feeding trips for tourists can actually be fatal

This is a guest post from June Haimoff MBE, founder of the Kaptan June Sea Turtle Conservation Foundation. --RM

I first started working to protect loggerhead turtles many years ago after a night-time encounter with one of these fascinating animals on their nesting beach in Dalyan, on Turkey’s southern coast.

Since then, with the support and assistance of other turtle supporters and environmentalists, I’ve campaigned, gathered signatures and gained knowledge in order to save the species and get official government Protection Status for the beach and its turtle population (Decree No. 88/13019, 12.06.1988).

Today, I still live in Dalyan, and have become increasingly aware of a new threat – turtle-feeding trips organised by local boatmen. This problem is not unique to Dalyan, but is happening along the coast on other turtle beaches.

One adverse symptom displayed by loggerhead turtles as a result of these trips is an inability to digest food different from their normal diet, principally crab.  Another is that, over time, the turtles become beggars and no longer migrate as part of their normal life cycle.  Locally, the water temperature decreases and leaves them in danger of hypothermia, death and starvation. As Dalyan is a tourist area, boat traffic is minimal during the winter months so there is no source of artificial food.  It should be noted that legislation is in place in the Republic of Turkey to forbid the artificial feeding of wild animals – The Animal Protection Law.

Aside from these dietary problems, turtles are vulnerable to injury from the extremely busy boat activity – approximately 600 boats in the area during the summer months.  Many turtles suffer damage from boat propellers. To remedy this, our Foundation has been providing free propeller guards to local boat owners.

But, ultimately, these turtle feeding trips should be stopped – and you can help.

IFAW is supporting a petition started by the Kaptan June Sea Turtle Conservation Foundation calling on Turkish authorities to crack down on turtle-feeding trips. You can add your name here.

--JH

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