You may wonder what the name of the protagonist from a 1960s blockbuster could possible have to do with Pulau Durai and the island's status as turtle protection hub. Read on...
Typically, it takes about 20 years for sea turtles to reach sexual maturity. Most female turtles then undertake their mating and, egg-laying and subsequent nesting, every three years, until they're about 80 years old. Only the eggs that hatch and only those turtle juveniles that then avoid being eaten, get the chance to mate and continue their cycle of life.
We know the vast majority of the eggs never reach the mature turtle stage. Nutritious and vulnerable, turtle eggs are under attack from the moment they've been laid; by monitor lizards and especially by man.
In fact, until fairly recently, the vast majority of turtle eggs in Durai never even hatched at all. Most of the eggs used to be collected and sold on the local markets, where they were popular as a snack.
Years of turtle egg harvesting then ultimately took its toll; eventually, the number of eggs dwindled to an estimated 25% of the abundance of the old days.
Enter Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, California scientist and activist. In 2009, Dr. Nichols joined the Planetary Coral Reef Foundation, which visited Anambas after having been invited to develop marine conservation initiatives.
Dr. Nichols immediately arranged for a deal between the owners of Durai and neighboring Pahat. The deal involved an egg- harvesting cease and desist, for which the owners received a financial reward.
The agreement was subsequently backed by donors, including Premier Oil, one of the companies active in the Anambas area.
Nichols recalls: "To make the deal extra memorable, at the end of our meeting, the group of island owners was served a hard boiled egg and all of us then watched the scene from Cool Hand Luke where Paul Newman wins a bet by wolfing down no fewer than 50 hard boiled chicken eggs in one hour.
Since that day, and thanks also to Durai's appointed caretaker, Pak Lahani, the spirit of the agreement lives on. The result? The Durai and Pahat turtle populations have gradually been returning to healthy numbers and Durai and Pahat have regained their status as most productive turtle islands in the region.
A great conservation success story.
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