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ENVIRONMENT REPORT - August 17, 2001: Sea Turtle Recovery Plan - 2001-08-22

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

Endangered turtles in the Indian Ocean and waters of Southeast Asia are about to receive some help. Countries in the area have agreed to a plan to save six important kinds of turtles. These species are at risk of disappearing because of the demand for their meat and their eggs. The nests where they lay their eggs are also being destroyed. And many sea turtles are caught accidentally in fishing operations.

Delegates from twenty-one countries met recently in the Philippines as part of the Convention on Migratory Species. They agreed to establish programs designed to increase the number of sea turtles across the wide ocean area. The agreement is to take effect next month. The six species of turtles to be rescued in the project are the loggerhead, olive ridley, green, hawksbill, leatherback and flatback.

Sea turtles have existed on Earth for millions of years. They are an important part of the ocean’s environmental system. The turtles help scientists understand the health of the environment in which they live.

Most sea turtles live in warm waters. However, the leatherback turtle has been found in cold waters as far north as Nova Scotia, Canada.

Sea turtles spend their life in the ocean. They return to the beach where they were hatched to lay their eggs. Some leatherback turtles can weigh more than almost five-hundred kilograms.

Human activities have greatly reduced the number of sea turtles in the world. The new rescue plan is an important step in efforts to increase the sea turtle population.

India, Pakistan and Iran are among the countries that have already begun major projects to save sea turtles. Long-term projects have also been established in Australia and South Africa. Many countries are also working with local and international wildlife groups.

In Terengganu, Malaysia, a team of scientists has rescued more than two-hundred-fifty-thousand turtle eggs. Thousands of young turtles have hatched and returned to the ocean. Similar egg rescue plans are taking place in other parts of Malaysia led by the Malaysian Department of Fisheries and the World Wide Fund for Nature.

The United States, Australia and the United Nations Environment Programme have agreed to support an organization to supervise the sea turtle rescue project.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk.