Grant Recipient: Sri Lanka Turtle Conservation Project (SLTCP)
Project Director or Person Responsible: Mr. Thushan Kapurusinghe
Grant Recipient Address: 72/4, Old Galle Road, Walana, Panadura, Sri Lanka
Location of Project: Rekawa (Hambanthota District)
Project Start and End Dates: 1st January 2021 – October 09, 2021
Funding Agency: Lion Share/UNDP GEF SGP
Approved Budget: US $ 50,000
Rekawa is a small fishing village located on the Southern coast of Sri Lanka, approximately 10 kilometres eastwards along the coast from Tangalle in Hambantota District. It is located on the border of the intermediate and dry climatic zones of Sri Lanka, and borders on a large saline lagoon surrounded by extensive mangrove forests. As Rekawa is located between two climatic zones, the area is rich in biodiversity. Five species of sea turtles come ashore to nest on the beaches of Sri Lanka and all these five species are nested in Rekawa. In addition to the turtles, there is a wide range of other coastal fauna and flora such as coral reefs, marine algae, sea grasses, reef fish, crustaceans, echinodermates, molluscs, annelids, hydrozoans, holothurians and arthropods found in Rekawa.
Until the mid-nineties, there were many environmentally destructive practices practiced by the local community members in Rekawa village. The killing of sea turtles, turtle egg gathering, mining of corals and sand, mining shells from the lagoon, cutting mangroves, poaching wild animals were among the destructive practices. Although many of these natural resources are legally protected, coastal communities continue to use coastal resources in a destructive manner violating the existing environmental laws. Lack of education on marine and coastal resources, lack of law enforcement, lack of community participation in conservation and management of coastal resources have been contributory factors to the destruction of coastal ecosystems.
TCP has initiated a community based in-situ marine turtle nest protection and research programme in Rekawa in September 1996 by employing former turtle egg poachers as turtle nest protectors. In 2006, TCP was able to convince the Department of Wildlife Conservation to declare the Rekawa beach as Sri Lankas’s first Sanctuary declared specially for the protection of marine turtles and their habitats.
TCP formed a community based organisation called Nature Friend of Rekawa (NFR) consisting all the turtle nest protectors. These nest protectors were trained as tourists’ guides and a “Turtle Watch” tourism initiative was introduced as a source of income for the NFR. Rekawa turtle nest protection programme was handed over to the NFR in 2012 and since then the conservation activities were conducted by the members of the NFR and the funds for the salaries was generated through turtle watch nature tourism programme. This programme was a self sustaining community driven wildlife conservation project in Sri Lanka.
However, due to the Covid -19 pandemic which was appeared in Sri Lanka in early 2020, tourism was collapsed and tourism income has dried out putting NFR in to a deep trouble. They could not pay the salaries of the turtle nest protectors and turtle conservation activities in Rekawa were in a great danger. Some community turtle nest protectors stopped coming to the beach to participate in beach patrols and few nest protectors continued their beach patrols even without a salary. The NFR once again appealed from TCP to support them at this difficult time and we just did what they wanted.
In response to the current Covid-19 Pandemic crisis prevailing in Rekawa village, the Turtle Conservation Project (TCP) implements a community based project with the financial support from the Lion Share/UNDP GEF SGP. The project is titled “Resilience in Wildlife Communities”. Lion Share Secretariat supports the community based wildlife conservation projects that had a major tourism component as a source of income and interrupted by the Covid – 19 pandemic.
Main Goal of the Project:
Reduced negative impacts of Covid-19 pandemic on turtle conservation efforts and community in Rekawa through enhanced income-generation opportunities and capacity development.
Objectives of the Project:
- To conserve all sea turtle nests in-situ in Rekawa beach while benefitting local nest protectors.
- Increase community income through the introduced livelihoods.
- Increase community responses and resilience in pandemic crisis management.
Key activities planned under this project:
- In-situ marine turtle nest protection programme
1.1. Conduct 24/7 beach patrols by NFR members to protect all marine turtle nests.
1.2. Conduct 12 beach cleaning programmes
1.3. Purchase rain gear, head torches, batteries etc. and construct 2 beach huts.
1.4. Purchase nest screens to cover turtle nests to prevent predators
- Increase local and foreign visitors to the Rekawa Sanctuary
2.1. TCP’s existing visitor center in Rekawa will be completed with educational panels and other attractions.
2.2. A website designed and launched for NFR to promote Rekawa turtle watch
2.3. Print Rekawa turtle watch tourism promotional leaflet
2.4. Support 5 home stay units in Rekawa.
- Increase community income reducing the additional pressure on environment
3.1. Initiate a community batik programme (linked with tourism)
3.2. Initiate 5 herbal gardens in Rekawa village
3.3. Initiate 10 organic home gardens in Rekawa
3.4. Provide a set of tool kit for all the beneficiaries after the completion of training (Batik, Medicinal and home gardening)
3.5. Initiate a community sewing programme
- Community preparedness improved for a pandemic situation
4.1. Conduct 5 training workshops for tourists’ guides, school children and community to handle visitors avoiding contamination (conducted by a doctor)
4.2. Train 10 community youth as trainers for mobilizing and training others in pandemic situation management
4.3. Design and print a booklet to create awareness on good practices during a pandemic
- Community awareness enhanced on environment conservation and lessons learned shared
5.1. Conduct 12 educational programmes on sea turtles, mangroves, coral reefs, sea grass etc. for school children and public
5.2. Print 4 books on sea turtles, coral reefs, dugongs and mangroves for children (1000 copies from each book)
5.3. Reprint existing educational materials on sea turtles, coral reefs, mangroves etc. (posters and leaflets) in Tamil and Sinhala languages