TOURISTS ENJOY THE TURTLES NESTING SEASON IN BALI
Despite the sea of holiday-makers and sometimes chaotic conditions, the turtles have been coming to Kuta in bigger numbers since the locals stopped killing and eating them almost 10 years ago.
"Balinese people used to eat turtles," he says. "They used to have turtle satay, turtle soup and lawar, a turtle meat and vegetable dish. They made ornaments from turtles and used the turtle head and body for offerings to the gods in Hindu temple ceremonies.
"But tourists, especially Australians, protested at this practice. So in 2000, the Kuta community decided to bring back nature. We decided to make the beach safe not only for people but for all life, including turtles."
ProFauna began public awareness and education campaigns to protect the turtles. It invoked Indonesia's 1990 Wildlife Act, which deems the poaching of sea turtles for meat consumption or trade illegal. Offenders face five years' jail and a 100 million rupiah fine.
"Sea turtles are an endangered species and research shows only one in 1000 baby turtles survives to adulthood," says Wayan, who is pleased most Balinese people now refrain from turtle consumption.
According to Agung, only one turtle turned up on the beach in 2002 to lay eggs. Then there were three the following year.
He used to cover the eggs with bamboo to protect them but in August 2004, he recalls, he was devastated when a big wave swept away the eggs.
Since then, he has created a makeshift hatchery, a mound of sand, near his office close to the entrance of Kuta Beach. All eggs laid on the 4km Kuta stretch, from the airport to Legian, are carefully collected and buried in the hatchery.
Plans are under way to build a permanent turtle-shaped hatchery with an education centre next to it.
Agung collected 2400 eggs in 2008 and 5000 last year and expects even more this year. He is excited about the support from locals and tourists.
As I was speaking to Agung, Phil Mulhern, of Mandurah, rocked up with his six-year-old son Blake and thrust 20,000 rupiah into Agung's hand, saying it was for the turtle program before wandering off to survey the hatchery.
"Many Australian tourists do this, they are our biggest supporters," says Agung. "The Rotary Club of Moora has helped us and there was someone from Perth who gave us titanium tags and applicators so we could tag the turtles," he says.
Agung and Wayan are now looking forward to the next few months, when they will collect the eggs and get tourists and locals to help release the newborn turtles.
Details: If you are in Kuta and want to help release baby turtles, contact Agung on 0816580145 or Wayan on 08164714188 or firstname.lastname@example.org.