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Indonesia's Polluted Environment Threatens Hawksbill Turtle


In December, nations will gather on the Indonesian island of Bali to discuss ways to deal with global warming and environmental damage. Indonesia is in many ways a test case for those efforts. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins has traveled to Pramuka Island, near Jakarta, where one man has been fighting for more than two decades to save the endangered hawksbill turtle.

The waters of Jakarta Bay are heavily polluted. Garbage dumped by the city's 12 million residents into canals that crisscross the city eventually finds its way to the sea. One study has declared the bay a "dying ecosystem."

But just an hour out of Jakarta by speedboat, the murky waters turn to clear blue sea around Pramuka Island.

Salim, 57, is trying to protect the endangered hawksbill turtle. It was once so prevalent in these waters that it was named the island's official mascot. He begins his days preparing food for the turtles.

I'm chopping these small fish to feed to the turtles, any kind of small fish will do," he said. "We feed the turtles twice a day."

Twenty years ago the turtles laid eggs on almost all the islands here. Now their nests are found on only around 3 of the 110 islands, thanks to the pollution, and hunting.

To preserve the species, Salim collects eggs from their nests and brings them to huge water-filled storage tanks until the turtles grow strong enough to be released to the sea.

Salim also tells the more than 20,000 people living on the six islands in the park to protect the hawksbills.

"Human beings are also a big threat to the turtles," said Salim. "People are careless. They take the eggs, and turtles also die in fishing nets. It's not eagles or big lizards, but humans who are the biggest predators of the turtles."

Even though Salim has spent his life trying to protect and preserve the turtles for future generations, experts are not optimistic the turtles will be able to survive much longer -- so close to the filth of Jakarta bay.

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