All (nice) stories have a beginning and this one began with a question:
“How does it feel like to be entangled in a net”?
As a Marine Biologist, I spend considerable time and effort trying to understand wild animals. Since I started studying sea turtles at Coco Bodu Hithi and Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu, my mind was occupied with so many questions about their behavior and ecology. The more data I collected, the more questions I had: How many sea turtles live in the Maldives? How many females? How many males? How long do they live? Do they migrate somewhere else? Where do they breed? Where do they nest?
Soon, I also started rescuing sea turtles entangled in drifting ghost nets (mostly Olive Ridley turtles) and more questions raised to my mind: From where do these sea turtles and nets come from? How long have they been entangled? For how long can an entangled sea turtle survive? And consequently, how long can it survive without feeding and diving? What can I do to prevent this? And…how does it feel to be entangled in a net.
I have always been fascinated by sea animals, especially sea turtles that are so at ease in the open ocean, swimming peacefully and being able to find their way in the deep blue. How terrible it must be for an animal like that to become entangled in a drifting net! Almost immobilized, exposed to direct sunlight and unable to feed, becoming weaker and weaker by the day.
When my fellow Marine Biologists Martin and Jillian initiated the Olive Ridley Project, I was incredibly happy! Finally someone was collecting information from all over the Maldives about drifting ghost nets and entangled sea turtles. The Olive Ridley Project taught us to collect net samples and to fill a net protocol in order to gain valuable information that could lead us to understand the origin of these nets. It also provided us with guidelines on how to safely and successfully rescue an entangled sea turtle and started building up a database containing all these useful information.
Of course the main goal was not just to rescue the sea turtles and to remove the dangerous nets from the ocean, but also to find feasible solutions to prevent the problem at its origin. This meant investigating problems and solutions, educating, training and creating awareness, not only in the Maldives but in the entire Indian Ocean region.
Since this project is so close to my heart, I soon submitted the idea of creating a partnership with the Olive Ridley Project, just to realize it was not at all difficult to convince Coco Collection’s Management: everyone was thrilled and enthusiastic! A few months later, Coco Collection is the official Olive Ridley Project partner for turtle rescue centers in Maldives!
This partnership will see the construction of a Turtle Rescue Centre at Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu funded by donations from the resorts’ guests. The Olive Ridley Project will bring a trained reptile veterinarian on the island to assist in rescues, care for injured turtles, and carry out awareness programs and excursions for guests and associates. This opportunity will offer rescued sea turtles a place to rest and recover from their injuries under expert care until they are healthy enough to be released into the wild. Similar initiatives will also be implemented at Coco Bodu Hithi in the near future. To properly celebrate this partnership, we had a full program at the resorts and on 18th January, we gathered at Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu for a dedicated ceremony.
At Coco Bodu Hithi, I invited our assocites to join the Olive Ridley Project for an educative snorkeling adventure where we encountered bottlenose dolphins and manta rays that made for an unforgettable experience! In the evening there was a Sea Turtle presentation at Latitude bar and the day after, they guided enthusiastic guests to meet some of our resident turtles.
At Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu, associates were involved in an on-site interactive presentation at the beach, followed by a fun snorkeling excursion at the house reef where a small net was found entangled in corals. Guests of Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu had a busy schedule as they were involved in hunting for ghost nets and marine debris, snorkeling with our sea turtles, participating in educational presentations and spotting dolphins! Last but not least, they learned about our adorable Olive Ridley Project turtles toys and purchased them (available only for USD 28) to fund the turtle rescue center. Thank you!
One of the most beautiful moments during this program was our day at the local school of Thulhadhoo where we had the chance to give a presentation to a crowd of more than 70 high school students. Promoting environmental education and awareness is a major part of our commitment and we were amazed by the students’ active participation.
At Coco Collection we are looking forward to the future with the Olive Ridley Project. In the meantime, if you would like to know more about our partnership with the Olive Ridley Project, please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. By joining our efforts, we can make the ocean a better place for sea turtles and all of the marine life to thrive!