Bangkaru Island Conservation
Bangkaru is a quintessential tropical island with untouched primary rainforest adjacent to lively coral reefs. This island hosts Amandangan beach, or what is commonly called Turtle Beach, stretching for 1.7 km. This beach is one of Indonesia’s most prolific and predominant nesting sites for the green sea turtle (endangered) and the leatherback sea turtle (vulnerable but data deficient for the North Eastern Indian ocean subpopulation).
Despite being designated as a conservation area for tourism purposes, Bangkaru continues to face turtle-egg poaching, destructive development plans, and unsustainable fishing practices, all of which are extremely harmful to its rich and understudied environment.
Conservation initiatives on Bangkaru are managed by HAkA, an Aceh conservation NGO. The following activities form the core of the conservation program on Bangkaru Island;
Sea Turtle Project - On Bangkaru Island, turtles nest all year round, returning every 2-3 years instead of the recorded 3-5 years normally associated with the species. It is estimated that between 3 and 15 nests are laid each night which can yield between 1,095 and 5,475 nests per year. For these reasons, Bangkaru's role in stabilizing threatened turtle populations is paramount. Conservation activities protecting nesting turtles from natural and human threats include:
- Turtle Patrolling - Amandangan beach requires daily patrols performed by HAkA rangers and VAST volunteers in the mornings and evenings, to protect turtles and turtle eggs from poachers, predators, and to deter illegal loggers. Before HAkA established its ranger presence on Bangkaru, sometimes over 1,500 turtle eggs were being poached and sold each night.
- Turtle Surveying - During patrols, rangers and volunteers observe and record nesting locations and other details, contributing to a larger body of scientific data for sea turtle population monitoring.
- Turtle Tagging and Measuring - During turtle surveying, nesting turtles and hatchlings are measured and tagged to aggregate data that contributes to scientific research and conservation policy advocacy.
- Marine Debris Surveying - Bangkaru's coastline requires the continual collection, sorting, and recording of marine debris to encourage successful turtle nesting and to contribute to a larger body of scientific data for ocean pollution statistics.
Biodiversity Surveying & Research - Despite Bangkaru's rich environmental assets, it's ecosystem remains largely unstudied. Through partnering with universities, scientists, researchers, and VAST volunteers, we seek to document and better identify Bangkaru's conservation needs, to contribute to scientific knowledge, and to aggregate data useful for conservation policy advocacy.
- Species & Vegetation Surveying - We regularly conduct observational surveys (observational, camera trapping, & spotlighting) of Bangkaru's land and marine ecosystems to record and identify the type and abundance of different species, as well as to map the locations of primary forests on Bangkaru.
- Nias Hill Myna Project - Bangkaru Island is the last known habitat for the Nias Hill Myna bird. After being proven to be genetically different from other species of Hill Myna, the "symbol of Nias" became extinct on Nias in early 2016. Scientists have since discovered that the same subspecies of Hill Myna esists on Bangkaru, and will be assisted by VAST volunteers in assessing the population numbers and recording changes over time.
Reef & Sustainable Fishing Project - Overfishing, blast and cyanide fishing practices, and trauma caused from the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami and the 2005 Nias-Simeulue tsunami have damaged Bangkaru's reefs, which are mutually linked to the health of fish, turtle, and other marine populations. We seek to rehabilitate and monitor Bangkaru's reefs, and educate local populations about the importance of sustainable fishing practices.
- Reef Surveying - Routine snorkel and scuba dives to closely monitor and record reef-health changes and re-growth.
- Sustainable Fishing Education - Unsustainable by-catch, longline, and net fishing strategies are currently used on Bangkaru Island, contributing to waste and depleting marine populations - including sea turtles. Through education and incentivizing alternative and sustainable local economies, we seek to eliminate these harmful practices.