Saving sea turtles

Turtles to benefit from Soneva’s new partnership with the Olive Ridley Project in the Maldives.

Soneva, the world-leading luxury eco resort operator has announced Soneva Jani’s partnership with the Olive Ridley Project in the Noonu Atoll, Maldives.

The aim of the official new partnership involves hiring a special Turtle Biologist to oversee the Turtle ID Database in the Noonu Atoll, monitor turtle nesting activity at Soneva Jani, and eventually run the rehabilitation centre that will be built on the island to help sick and injured sea turtles regain their health.

The Turtle Biologist will also run regular workshops and activities for guests at Soneva Jani to help raise awareness about turtle biology, their importance in the marine environment, and the threats they face today.

“We are thrilled to partner with Soneva Jani and look forward to working together to protect sea turtles in the Noonu Atoll. Our collaboration will provide a platform that ensures the best possible care for injured sea turtles and allows us to better monitor populations in the region. We are proud to be working alongside a dedicated and passionate team that share common values towards the marine environment,” says Martin Stelfox, the founder and CEO of the Olive Ridley Project.

Soneva Jani has been working with the Olive Ridley Project since 2017, during which the resort’s resident Marine Biologist has worked to remove ghost nets from the ocean, assisted in the rescue of injured turtles, and contributed valuable sea turtle photo ID’s to build a database of turtles resident in the Noonu Atoll. The hotel has also welcomed Dr. Jillian Hudgins, Senior Project Scientist, and Dr. Claire Petros, Lead Veterinarian Surgeon of the Olive Ridley Project to the island to conduct training and awareness sessions for both guests and staff on the subject of turtle rehabilitation, and to educate people on the dangers of ghost nets in the ocean.

“We are delighted to announce our recent partnership with the Olive Ridley Project, which will serve as a valuable platform for us to continue our commitment to raising awareness about the dangers that sea turtles face today,” says Eleanor Butler, Soneva Jani’s Marine Biologist. “The Olive Ridley Project is renowned in the Maldives for their ongoing, selfless work in turtle conservation, and we are beyond proud to be a part of this.”

Every year, it is estimated that 640,000 tonnes of ghost nets are discarded at sea, which amounts to 10% of the world’s total marine debris. Ghost nets are commercial fishing nets that have been lost, abandoned, or discarded at sea. Every year they are responsible for trapping and killing millions of marine animals including sharks, rays, bony fish, turtles, dolphins, whales, crustaceans, and birds. Ghost nets cause further damage by entangling live coral, smothering reefs and introducing parasites and invasive species into reef environments. Between July 2013 and July 2018, there were 601 turtle entanglements recorded in discarded fishing nets in the Maldives alone.

Soneva Jani, Maldives.

The Maldives is home to five species of sea turtles, the most frequently spotted out of these five are the Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata). Loggerheads, Leatherbacks and Olive Ridley turtles are the rarer species. Although all species of turtles have been protected by law in the Maldives since 1995, the major threats to these animals continue to be egg and meat poaching and entanglement in marine debris. All seven of the world’s species of sea turtles are on IUCN’s Red List with the Hawksbill turtle being listed as the most critically endangered out of the seven.

The Olive Ridley Project (ORP), a UK Registered Charity (No. 1165905), was founded in 2013 due to the large numbers of Olive Ridley sea turtles being entangled in fishing nets in the Maldives, where this turtle species is particularly rare. Most encounters with this vulnerable sea turtle in the Maldives are under stressful conditions; entangled in ghost nets, or floating injured on the surface. Turtles trapped in ghost nets regularly suffer from exhaustion, malnutrition, buoyancy issues and deep lacerations around the neck and flippers, and commonly require further specialist care and long term rehabilitation after being cut free from the net.

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