Sea turtles are one of the animal kingdom's great survivors, having been on the
planet for over 100 million years. But the threat of egg poachers, tourism and
fishing is risking their future.
In the eighth Saving Planet Earth celebrity expedition, Saira Khan travels to Sri
Lanka, home to five different species of turtle, to see the cause of the problems
and to witness some amazing community work which is offering hope for the
Many turtles feed in exactly the same waters where fishermen cast their nets. It
is estimated that more than 50,000 marine turtles are killed each year in
South-East Asia and the South Pacific, with commercial fishing the main cause.
Saira visits an area still recovering from the destruction of the Boxing Day
tsunami in 2005, and understands why, for many here, turtle conservation is not a
priority. She meets a local fisherman who has recently been fined nine months'
wages for stealing turtle eggs. Learning that he took the eggs to feed his
pregnant wife, she chokes back her tears, saying: "I feel really sad. I don't
feel angry at him at all. He's a really poor guy and he's got a pregnant wife and
she wanted something to eat, and he just did what he thought was right for his
family ... I don't think he understands why it's wrong to do that and I think
that's the trouble."
However, the project has helped many of the local people turn from turtle
poachers to turtle protectors, allowing them to make a living as tour guides
while safeguarding the turtles and their nesting grounds.
Thanks to one of the local guides, Saira witnesses the sight of baby turtles
hatching on the beach, breaking their way through the sand and making their way
into the ocean.
A £10 donation to the BBC Wildlife Fund could pay for a team co-ordinator for the
Turtle Conservation Project for three days.
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