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15 Sep 06
Balinese Sea Turtle Conservationist To Receive 2006 Seacology Prize
BERKELEY, Calif — Seacology is pleased to announce that Ketut Sarjana Putra has been selected to receive the 2006 Seacology Prize for his efforts to protect endangered sea turtles in his native Indonesia.
The Prize is awarded annually to an indigenous islander for exceptional achievement in preserving the environment and culture of any of the world's 100,000-plus islands. Mr. Putra will be awarded the $10,000 Prize on October 18, 2006 at a ceremony in San Francisco, California.
Ketut Sarjana Putra was born as the youngest of four sons to a peasant rice farming family in Mengwi, Bali. As a staff member of World Wild Fund for Nature Indonesia (WWF), Mr. Putra realized that the root of the rapidly declining turtle population was anchored firmly in his home island of Bali.
He lobbied for a law to protect turtles throughout Indonesia, and a national law was created in 1999 to ban the harvest of turtles, with an exception made to the island of Bali to allow the capture of 5,000 turtles a year for consumption in religious ceremonies.
After learning that 35,000 turtles were being sold annually in Bali, exceeding the quota seven-fold, Mr. Putra worked relentlessly with Balinese government officials to ban the existing quota so that no turtles could be traded.
He finally used the reasoning that tourism, Bali's main form of revenue, was going to suffer due to unfavorable press and possible boycotts.
Though government officials feared a revolt, he worked his away around their concern by suggesting that turtles could only be used in religious ceremonies with a permit and recommendation from a Balinese priest; and furthermore, he suggested that only Green turtles with a length of less than 60cm length could be used (knowing that the juvenile Green turtles are very hard to find.)
The new law was passed in 2000. Meanwhile, Mr. Putra was under the tutorage of a priest in Sanur, Bali who enlightened him on the many nuances of the Balinese Hindu religion.
Mr. Putra used this knowledge to gently persuade 37 religious leaders to ban turtle meat from ceremonies. He also appeared on several local television programs each week to inform the public of the plight of sea turtles.
In 2001, Mr. Putra's campaign on conserving sea turtles put his life in jeopardy when a kingpin of the turtle trade organized a mob of 300 protestors at the WWF office in Denpasar. He emptied his office in fear of its destruction and sent his wife to stay in a village away from the city.
Even until now, former turtle traders continue to pressure him to drop the law.
However, there is virtually no evidence of a turtle trade and turtle meat is no longer consumed in Balinese ceremonies. Instead, if the Balinese find a turtle on the beach, they make a ceremony for it and turn it back to the sea.
Mr. Putra is currently the Marine Director for Conservation International Indonesia.
According to Mr. Putra, "I am really delighted to receive this award and I am sure that this is not only for me but for Balinese people and their government who have been working very hard to adopt and implement true turtle conservation... I am glad and proud to have been part of those efforts."
Seacology is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization with the sole purpose of preserving the environments and cultures of islands throughout the globe.
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