DIMO signed an agreement with the Wildlife Research & Conservation Trust (WRCT) to protect the five species of turtles that frequent the 4 kilometre stretch of the Panama Coastal Area (East Coast of Sri Lanka near Arugam Bay). These turtles lay their eggs on the beaches of Panama which subsequently hatch and make their way to the ocean. However, due to the fact that that their numbers have been declining due to loss of habitat, predation by wildlife, stealing and consumption of eggs by the local people, the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has declared each of the turtles that visit Sri Lanka as “Endangered”. Therefore, DIMO stepped in to preserve these all too important marine life in 2012.
As a result of the work done, over 12,000 eggs of the Olive Ridley, Green Turtles, Hawksbill, Leatherback and Loggerheads have been preserved. In 2014, for the first time, the extremely rare Leatherback and Loggerhead turtles laid their eggs on the beaches of Panama. The project has won two Merit Certificates two years in a row at the “Best Corporate Citizen Awards” held by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.
In addition to signing the agreement, twenty five (25) cages were fabricated by DATS (DIMO Automobile Training School) to protect the turtle eggs from predators such as wild boars, crabs and dogs. Seventy five additional cages will be donated in the forthcoming months.
The following highlights the stages of the turtle egg laying process and how protectors (who once were poachers of eggs) are now ensuring the survival of this endangered species. The protectors now ensure that poachers do not kill the female turtles when they come onto the beach to lay their eggs and they have a safe passage until they return to the ocean. They patrol the beach all night and also during the day.
The ultimate aim of Stage 3 of the project is to have the area declared as a “Sustainable Eco-Development Zone” while continuing to save as many turtles as possible. DIMO would also be involved in educating the community on preservation of turtles and encourage the use of green practises to keep Panama clean and pristine. Enhancement of their livelihoods will also be a key part of the project outcomes. With the donations given by the DIMO Tribe last year, DIMO will be rebuilding the house of the team leader of the project, Sugathapala and his family who dedicate their lives to saving turtles.