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The Turtle and The Tourist

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The Mediterranean Loggerhead turtle, the Caretta Caretta, - - is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List - of Threatened Species. Once found all over the Mediterranean Basin, - - this ancient species is now at risk from the ever growing threats - caused by marine pollution, fisheries by-catch, - and loss of nesting habitats. Now, we don’t have exact data available - - about the population of the Caretta caretta turtles, - because the number of juveniles among them, is not known, - as they cannot be followed. But we have data available - - about the number which are mature enough to lay eggs, - and that’s around 2.000 in the Mediterranean Area. In Turkey, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, - - a small tourist destination, Cirali, - practices a model of turtle conservation, - based on eco-tourism and local community involvement. Bayram Kütle, a local farmer, - - began working to protect the turtles of Cirali in 1993, - and has dedicated his life to saving this endangered species. He believes, that the conservation of turtles - - has simultaneously helped the local community, - in creating a solid eco-tourism economy. Turtles are the symbol of this village. Because the turtles saved the Cirali coast. These places were to be rented. They saved us from big golf resorts. We were against it, and wanted to leave this coast to the turtles. Cirali is a small tourist resort, - - with approximately 100 local family-owned hotels. Just 40 years ago - - only two families lived here, and both raised sheep for a living. Today the local families make a living from eco-tourism - - combined with organic fruit and vegetable farming. Eco-tourism, - - eco-agriculture and Caretta caretta turtles, - all three together reflect natural life - - and a sustainable one. We explain to the tourists, who come to our hotel, - - firstly, that this is a protected area, - and a beach where endangered Caretta caretta turtles lay eggs. If they go to the beach at night, - - we suggest that they do not - turn on lights or build fires. If they happen to see a turtle, or a hatchling, - - we advise them not to touch or disturb them. The local people in Cirali, including the restaurant and hotel owners, - - are self regulating the area through a number of initiatives. Today, the restaurants are positioned away from the water front - - leaving the beach for recreational use only. And at night the restaurants use only dimmed lights, - - and people are not allowed on the beach after eight in the evening. We do things voluntarily. We cannot force the villagers… For example... One day we talk to them, we say - let’s clean the beach today. They say OK... From the young to the old, everybody comes over and cleans. We do cleaning every 15 days, or once a month. You can see that. Cirali and tourism go hand in hand - - and the beach is not closed. So the beach is used by both Carettta caretta turtles - - and the tourists who come here. The tourists who come here - - are very respectful to what has been done here. The World Wildlife Fund - - has been part of this initiative since 1994, - one year after Bayram started up the project. In the nesting period from May to September - - a volunteer group consisting of 3 people from WWF, - 2 local residents, - and 3 university students, - patrol the 3,2 kilometres beach at night, - from eight in the evening to seven in the morning. The work we do here, is to warn and to prevent - - people, who go to the beach, - who swim, and who light fires. Those, who can affect the hatchlings and mother turtles in any way. Because the people acting that way, - - turning on lights for example, - can cause baby turtles to go in the wrong direction, - and making noise causes mother turtles - - to get stressed, and go back. The volunteers are also responsible - - for spotting and locating the mother turtles, - when they come up onto the beach during the night - to nest and lay eggs. After our volunteers enable the mother turtles to lay eggs - - they tag the turtles and measure them. They register all the necessary data, - - so that we can compare the growth rate of the turtles, - when we meet them again in the following years. After they lay eggs - - the cages are put around the eggs in the morning. The cages protect each turtle nest on the beach - - during the one and a half month that it takes - for the baby turtles to hatch. The eggs are buried 60 cm below the surface, - - and once they hatch, - it takes 2 or 3 days for the hatchlings to reach the surface. Every morning the volunteers check for hatchlings - - that haven’t quite made it to the surface during the night. We check the entrances of the nest - - where the hatching is due, - or where the hatching has already started - - with traces of the baby turtles coming out. We rescue the baby turtles - - which get stuck at the entrance of the nest, and can’t breathe, - and which will possibly die due to heat from the sun, - and we release them into the sea. When it's time for the volunteers to monitor the number of hatchlings - - early in the morning. Tourists are also allowed to join in on the fun. They can even help guide the hatchlings to the sea, - - as long as they don’t touch them. We take the tourists to the hatchlings - - and to the nest. You can see in the mornings - - that we have many observers. They join us - - and observe the work. There has been an obvious increase in the number of tourists, - - especially families with children, - coming here in the summer season, - to show the turtles to their kids. I am very proud that I have served my village, - - my country, and my environment. The results are obvious. I witnessed myself, what has been realised, - so I am honoured. According to WWF, the number of turtle nestings has tripled, - - since the project began in 1994. Nestings have increased by around 30 per year - - to today's 90-120 nestings annually.

Video Details

Duration: 8 minutes and 24 seconds
Country: Denmark
Language: English
License: All rights reserved
Producer: Ace & Ace
Director: Eskil Hardt
Views: 39
Posted by: esbenhardt on Sep 4, 2012

Environmental Atlas story from Turkey about sustainable eco-tourism and turtle conservation in Çirali, Antalaya, Turkey.
The Environmental Atlas of Europe is a UNEP-EEA-ESA joint project showcasing communities responding to environmental change across Europe. The films present a series of these inspirational stories about how people are responding to climate change and in so doing, transforming their lives for a more sustainable future.

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