Sea Turtle Hatcheries in Sri Lanka

Sea Turtle Hatcheries are a common sight in West, South West and South coast of Sri Lanka. You should know that a sea turtle hatchery (more correctly, a Sea Turtle Conservation Project) is a place where sea turtles are hatched in a safe and controlled environments.

A turtle hatchery in Sri Lanka

I recently visited a Sea Turtle Hatchery in ‘Induruwa’ called ‘Induruwa Sea Turtle Conservation Project and Sea Turtle information Centre’. There are numbers of hatcheries in Induruwa and Kosgoda areas. And I was able to capture some nice shots of these beautiful creatures. But before talking about Sea Turtle Hatcheries in Sri Lanka, let me start with a brief description about Sea Turtles in the world.

Seven Species of Sea Turtles

There are seven species of Sea Turtles around the world. They are namely,

  • Green
  • Loggerhead
  • Kemp’s Ridley
  • Olive Ridley
  • Hawksbill
  • Flatback
  • Leatherback (the only type who doesn’t have a hard shell on its back)

Generally, each of these species can be found in oceans around the world (not in polar regions), except the Flatback and Kemp’s Ridley. Flatback Sea Turtles are found solely on the Northern Coast of Australia and Kemp’s Ridleies are found solely in Gulf of Mexico and along the East Coast of the United States.

All other five species visit Sri Lankan coasts in nesting season. The important thing is, all of these five species are either ‘Vulnerable’ or ‘Endangered’ or ‘Critically Endangered’ according to WWF (World Wildlife Fund). As of 14th April 2017, their status is as follows.

  • Green – Endangered
  • Loggerhead – Vulnerable
  • Kemp’s Ridley – Critically Endangered
  • Olive Ridley – Vulnerable
  • Hawksbill – Critically Endangered
  • Flatback – Data Deficient
  • Leatherback – Vulnerable

Sea turtles have numerous threats. It is a shame that the man is one of a major threat for these innocents. They are being killed for the meat and the shell. Their eggs are being taken to be poached. Then there are some indirect actions of people that kill them also. They are being hit by boats, they get caught in fishing nets, uncontrolled developments in coasts destroy their nesting ground, etc.

Not only that, they have a lot of natural predators also. Dogs, Monitor Lizards, Raccoons, Foxes and some more animals prey on their eggs. Fishes, Seabirds, Crabs and some other animals prey on hatchlings. Even grown Sea Turtles have deadly predators such as Sharks and Killer Whales.

Now you can see that we have a huge responsibility in conserving these animals. That is where the Sea Turtle Hatcheries come into the scene.

Baby Sea Turtles

What is the Role of Sea Turtle Hatcheries?

Artificial Sea Turtle nests

As I told you earlier also, a Sea Turtle Hatchery is a place where sea turtles are hatched in a safe and controlled environments. The picture shows that kind of an artificial nesting ground. After laying the eggs, the job of the mother Sea Turtle is done. There is no any incubation required. That is what allows this kind of artificial nesting grounds.

There are two options to save Sea Turtle eggs from predators, after the females laid them. Either you have to protect the natural nesting grounds day and night or you have to take the eggs to a safe place. First one requires a lot of effort and time, therefore almost all the Sea Turtle Conservation Projects in Sri Lanka choose the second option.

Hatchlings

A Cute Sea Turtle Hatchling

A Sea Turtle Hatchery in Sri Lanka

So they hatch the eggs on their own premises, ensuring the safeness of the eggs. Once the eggs are hatched, the babies are fed and kept for some time and then released to the ocean as groups.

Sea Turtle Hatcheries perform ‘night patrols’ in nesting season, to protect adult female Sea Turtles which are coming to the shore to lay eggs and to locate their nests. Once she left, they collect the eggs and bring to the hatchery.

There are some disputes regarding the Sea Turtle Hatcheries also. Some animal activists complain that hatchlings are kept too much of time in hatcheries. According to them that reduces their survivability in the sea. Keeping the hatchlings in the Sea Turtle Hatcheries for a long period might happen due to a reason.

It is a fact that most of turtle hatcheries in Sri Lanka are not operating solely with the noble purpose of conserving the sea turtles. By having Sea Turtle Hatcheries, they earn money also. Since those places are always attracted by tourists (both local and foreign), they collect an entrance fee from tourists. So they keep the hatchlings until the next set is available I guess, because the hatchlings are the center of the attraction in a Sea Turtle Hatchery.

Turtle Hatchery in Sri Lanka
A staff member is explaining the difference between two species of Sea Turtles.

But I am still not convinced to the statement that their survivability is reduced when they kept long in hatcheries. Anyhow, I’m not an expert on that subject. It might be true also. You may find more about it. But I know for sure that they are too much cute.

A baby sea turtle on hand

Important: If you are going to visit a Turtle Hatchery in Sri Lanka they might allow you touch the hatchlings. But be very very delicate with them. Don’t ever take them out of the tank without permission from the staff. And don’t try to take out grown Sea Turtles, because they will get frightened.

Grown Sea Turtles

Hawksbill sea turtle in a Hatchery

You will find grown Sea Turtles also in Turtle hatcheries in Sri Lanka. As I have heard from a staff of the Induruwa Sea Turtle Conservation Project, they are allowed to keep two adults (matured enough to reproduce) for reproduction, by ‘Department of Wildlife Conservation’. Department of Wildlife Conservation is the governing body for all the Turtle Hatcheries in Sri Lanka.

Disabled Sea Turtles

Another major part played by the Sea Turtle Hatcheries is looking after disabled ones. Sometimes there are birth defects, sometimes they are caused by natural predators and then most of them are caused by direct and indirect actions of us, the man.

Injured sea turtle in a turtle hatchery
You can see how unfortunate this one is. His shell is curved inwards severely. It must have happened when he is a baby and when his shell is not hard. Or it might be a birth defect even.
partially paralyzed sea turtle
This sea turtle is partially paralyzed, according to the staff there. And it is said to be a birth defect.
Injured sea turtle
This is an unfortunate result of people’s actions. This one has lost its both front and rear fins of right side to a fishing net. Please forgive me that it is not very clearly seen in this image.
sea turtle hatchery in Sri Lanka
Loggerhead sea turtle
The above ones are also disabled in some way, but I couldn’t notice what their disabilities are. Hatcheries are allowed to keep the disabled ones forever since they will not last long in the sea.

Volunteering in a Sea Turtle Hatchery

Most of the Turtle Hatcheries in Sri Lanka accept volunteers to help their day to day activities in hatcheries. If you are really an animal lover or if you want to know about Sea Turtles in detail, you can consider becoming a volunteer in one of Sea Turtle Hatcheries. You have to perform a vast range of tasks in there such as, cleaning the tanks, collecting eggs, going on night patrols, feeding the Sea Turtles, releasing the hatchlings, etc. You can get more details from their respective websites. Just Google ‘sea turtle conservation in sri lanka’ or ‘sea turtle hatchery in sri lanka’.

Albino Sea Turtle

To finish the article, I’m going to show you something very special, an Albino Sea Turtle.

Albino sea turtle

Albino Sea Turtle in Sea Turtle Hatchery in Sri Lanka

I guess you know about ‘Albinism’. According to Wikipedia it is the ‘Congenital absence of any pigmentation or coloration of a person, animal or plant….’. So don’t get mistaken that this one is a separate species, it is a ‘Green Sea Turtle’ who happen to be an Albino.

Don’t forget to visit the Image Gallery below to see the complete set of (larger) images.

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So that’s about the Sea Turtle Hatcheries in Sri Lanka in general and about the specific hatchery I visited. I hope you got interested in visiting one. About me, I’m going to visit few more Sea Turtle Hatcheries in Sri Lanka for sure, as soon as I get a chance. Just leave a comment if you have any doubts or if you need further information. See you in the next article.

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