Apriadi Gunawan, Medan, North Sumatra – An endangered giant leatherback turtle was found slaughtered in Sosorgadong district, Central Tapanuli regency, North Sumatra on Monday.
The turtle, which weighed 213 kilograms and was 2.13 meters long, was reportedly caught and killed by a local resident when it was about to lay eggs on nearby Binasi Beach.
Leatherback turtles are the world's biggest turtles and the fourth-biggest reptiles after three species of crocodile.
Binasi Beach Conservation Group chairman Budi Sikumbang said the protected species had been hunted for years in Central Tapanuli. He said the group had recorded at least three known cases in which the leatherback turtles were preyed upon in recent years. Two of the turtles were saved, while one was slaughtered, he said.
"This is the second time we have found a slaughtered leatherback turtle. It's so sad," Budi said on Monday. He went on to say that the group was unaware of the hunt until it was too late.
"We went [to the beach] alongside members of the Indonesian Navy to verify the information we received regarding the hunt, but the turtle was already dead when we arrived," he said.
Based on the information that the group has gathered, a former Sosorgadong village head purportedly caught and slaughtered the endangered specimen, and then sold the meat to local residents for Rp 25,000 (US$1.80) per kg.
Prima Pohan, a secretary for the Western Beach Conservation Community (Komantab), said she was disheartened by the latest slaughtering of the endangered species for personal gain. She said she hoped local authorities would soon put a stop to the slaughtering to prevent the species from going extinct.
"We hope the authorities will crack down on turtle hunting," Prima said, adding that the local administration had yet to take any effective measures against the illegal activity.
North Sumatra Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) head Hotmauli Sianturi said the turtles were typically caught by fisherfolk and then sold at a local market. The agency had cooperated with the police and the Maritime Agency to prevent future slaughtering of the turtles, he said.
Hotmauli explained that, in accordance with government regulations, all species of turtles were protected species due to their declining population. He said the agency did not yet have an accurate count of starfruit turtles in North Sumatra because the animals constantly migrated from one region to another.
"The turtles often migrate from one place to another – they sometimes even end up on foreign shores. It's difficult to count the population," he said.
He went on to say that those complicit in turtle hunting would be charged under Law No. 5/1990 on ecosystem and natural resource conservation.
"The perpetrators could be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison and slapped with a Rp 100 million fine," Hotmauli added. (rfa)