My name is Lorna and I am a PADI Instructor. Recently, I have been travelling through Sri Lanka and, following my passion for the protection of our environment, I went to visit the Benota Turtles Research Project, a small rescue centre for sea turtles.
As soon as I get there, my guide starts explaining that there are 5 species in Sri Lanka: Green, Hawksbill, Leatherback, Olive's Ridley and Loggerhead. The main threat comes from fishing, pollution and - sadly - from egg poaching, eggs that are then sold for few bucks in local markets.
In the meantime, we walk towards a sand pit and he explains to me that they bury those eggs waiting to hatch in there. Every batch is catalogued by species. We continue our tour and we head towards a couple of pools where I see a few hatchlings a couple of days old: these hatchlings would be released that same evening by the volunteers. The release of hatchlings in the sea is always done at night - the guide tells me - to minimise the risk of being targeted by natural predators.
We proceed towards other pools where I see 5 turtles, one of each species. Again, the guide explains that these turtles are there for educational and scientific reasons.
In the last pool there is a very big turtle, with one limb missing, and a very rare albino turtle.
My visit ends in front of a very striking picture of the centre after the 2004 tsunami. Despite the destruction it brought, the centre has been restored to its full operational activity after only a few years, thanks to the work and dedication of many volunteers, and the sea turtle population is on the rise.
I leave with a heavy heart, from the last pictures, but full of hope. In a country that is considered below the line of poverty, a lot is being achieved. Thanks to all of you who works every day for the protection of these wonderful creatures!