The Rampantly Illegal Trade of Sea Turtle Shell Jewelry and Souvenirs in Tanjung Benoa – Bali

Tanjung Benoa, Bali was notorious as the hub the illegal sea turtle trade in Indonesia. In 1999, ProFauna Indonesia launched its investigation report revealing 9,000 turtles were slaughtered within 4 months in Bali. Responding the report, between 2000 and 2002 the authorities had conducted confiscation operations and law enforcement on the illegal trade.

Sea turtles displayed in Tanjung BenoaWhat the condition of the the trade had been in the island between 2011 and early 2012? Since the massive enforcement operations, the trade has been decreasing drastically but it doesn't stop at all. ProFauna records show that on 5th July 2011, the Marine Police of Bali seized 18 green turtles (Chelonia mydas) about to smuggled to Tanjung Benoa. In conclusion, sea turtle trade in Bali still happens secretly and in more organized ways.

In the end of January 2012, ProFauna Indonesia team conducted an investigation into the trade of sea turtle trade and its body parts in Bali. The positive findings from the investigation is that the locations in Denpasar and Kuta which used to sell sea turtle shell jewelry and souvenirs are not selling the illegal commodities anymore. On the other hand, the trade of the sea turtle shell jewelry and souvenirs remains openly in Tanjung Benoa.

Sea turtle shell jewellery and souvenirs sold in Tanjung BenoaPulau Penyu (Sea Turtle Island) in Tanjung Benoa is famous as a tourism destination where hundreds of sea turtles are used as photo-props for tourist photos. The endangered sea turtles displayed are varied in sizes and comprising of three species: the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), the Olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), and the hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate).

Apart from the photo-props sea turtles, there are some semi-natural hatcheries in Pulau Penyu. Instead of naturally laid, one of the employees in the tourism destination confessed that the sea turtle eggs came from the Natural Resources Conservation Center of the Forestry Department (locally known and abbreviated as BKSDA). So did the photo-props sea turtles. The employee added that Pulau Penyu only facilitated the place to display the sea turtles and to hatch the eggs. He also admitted that most sea turtles were imported from some locations in Java Island: Pangumbahan in West Java, and Banyuwangi and Jember in East Java.

Furthermore, another shocking information gathered was that some hotels could order some or sea turtles in Pulau Penyu for a sea turtle hatchling "release" ceremony. Despite the release must have been permitted by the BKSDA, the fact that the release is charged with some money has brought negative conclusion. To release a juvenile sea turtle is charged with 200,000 IDR (about 20 USD, 1 USD = 10,000 IDR). While to release the adult sea turtle, one has to pay 120 USD.

Pulau Penyu is also the hub of sea turtle shell jewelry and souvenirs. The trade of the hawksbill turtle bodyparts occurs openly.

Table 1. The number and species of the sea turtles displayed in Pulau Penyu, Tanjung Benoa in January 2012
No Common Name Latin Name Size Number
1 Green turtle Chelonia mydas Small 237
Big 36
2 Olive Ridley Lepidichelys olivacea Small 28
Big 3
3 Hawksbill turtle Eretmochelys imbricate Average 5
Table 2. The number and species of the hawksbill turtle shell jewelry and souvenirs sold in Pulau Penyu, Tanjung Benoa in January 2012
No Jewelry and Souvenir Products Size Number Price (IDR)
1 Bracelet Small 12 150,000
Average 8 250,000
2 Cigarette pipe Small 5 300,000
3 Jewelry box Small 3 450,000
Big 1 1,000,000

Violating the Indonesian Wildlife Law

All sea turtle species in Indonesia have been protected by the law meaning that the trade of the endangered species (either in alive condition or their body parts) is prohibited. According to the Act number 5 year 1990 concerning the Conservation of the Natural Resources and the Ecosystem, the violators are liable to a maximum of five year prison term and a 100 million IDR fine.

The displayed hundreds sea turtles and the traded sea turtle shell jewelry and souvenirs in Tanjung Benoa is ironic. Not only is the law not enforced, the fact that the illegal trade happens openly in such famous tourism destination in Pulau Penyu, Tanjung Benoa also allegedly shows ignorance by the authorities.

ProFauna Indonesia's Recommendations

  • Enforce the law to the full extent on the illegal trade of sea turtle shell jewelry and souvenirs.

    The trade of the sea turtle shell jewelry and souvenirs is obviously illegal. The authorities should conduct confiscation operations and violators must be punished to the full extent of the law. Such rampantly illegal trade of sea turtle has given Bali a bad name as one of the main tourism destination in Indonesia.

  • Stop the commercial sea turtle release.

    The sea turtle release has become a trend in Bali. The 'release' of sea turtle hatchlings, juveniles, or adults where one has to pay some money for it is the same as a commercial conservation which can lead to a violation of the wildlife act because the sea turtles are imported from elsewhere. Such 'release' can trigger the illegal trade of sea turtles and the eggs. Therefore, ProFauna Indonesia encourages the BKSDA of the Forestry Department in Bali to stop the commercial release of sea turtle.

  • Curb the sea turtle tourism activities in Tanjung Benoa

    Hundreds of sea turtles displayed and used as photo-props in Pulau Penyu have raised a question. Where do they come from? While the capture and trade of all sea turtle species are prohibited according to the law. The government should curb such activities because such tourism industry can lead to the illegal trade of the endangered species in Indonesia.

    The government should also conduct regular monitoring on the sea turtles displayed in the tourism destinations: Pulau Penyu (Sea Turtle Island), the Turtle Conservation and Education Center (TCEC) in Serangan, and CV. Taman Penyu owned by Raga in Serangan. The monitoring should check the microchip implanted in the sea turtles or other tagging to inspect if the sea turtles are legal.

What can you do?

  • Do not visit the tourism places exploiting sea turtle like Pulau Penyu (Sea Turtle Island) in Tanjung Benoa, Bali.
  • Do not buy the sea turtle shell jewelry and souvenirs.
  • Send a letter or email to encourage the government to enforce the law to curb the illegal trade of the sea turtle shell jewelry and souvenirs in Pulau Penyu, Tanjung Benoa. Send your letter to the following:
  • Bali Governor, Made Mangku Pastika

    Jl. Basuki Rahmat Nitimandala Denpasar Bali Indonesia
    Tel. (+62361) 35155
    Fax. (+62361) 433840 - 247431

    Zulkifli Hasan SE. MM

    Menteri Kehutanan Republik Indonesia (The Forestry Minister)
    Gedung Manggala Wanabakti Blok I Lt. 3
    Jl. Jend. Gatot Subroto
    Jakarta 10270

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ProFauna Indonesia is an Indonesian society for the protection of
wild animals and their habitats