Alleged turtle abuse at Bali's "conservation centres" sees filthy living conditions & tourist trade

If you're planning to visit Turtle Island, you might want to think again.

Ashley Tan | June 14, 2019, 06:47 PM

On June 13, 2019, an environmental photojournalist by the name of Aaron Gekoski wrote a post on Facebook detailing the level of abuse animals at "conservation centres" in Bali were suffering.

The post has since gone viral, racking up more than 3,000 shares since it was posted.

Poor living conditions for turtles

Gekoski had visited Turtle Island in Tanjung Benoa, Bali, as part of a campaign called Raise the Red Flag, which aims to educate tourists on abusive operators.

According to Gekoski, six operators on Turtle Island claim to be turtle conservation centres that help "turtle populations through rescue, rehabilitation and release programmes".

However, what Gekoski found was anything but.

He went on to say that tourists go to these centres to interact with the turtles, but the creatures often end up being manhandled.

Gekoski even wrote that he saw on numerous occasions, some turtles being dropped harshly back into the water from several feet high.

His Facebook post also included a supposed response from an employee at one of the centres, who stated that "the turtles are just here because the tourists like them".

Photo from Aaron Gekoski / FB

Photo from Aaron Gekoski / FB

Photo from Aaron Gekoski / FB

Photo from Aaron Gekoski / FB

From Gekoski's photos, the turtles can be seen crowding in bare, shallow concrete pools filled with murky water.

The pools also seem far too shallow for the turtles to swim freely in.

When not nesting, sea turtles can migrate up to hundreds or thousands of miles. Yet, the photos show that they are trapped in the confines of a small pen.

Photo from Aaron Gekoski / FB

In the wild, sea turtles are generally solitary creatures, rarely interacting with other individuals outside of courtship and mating.

At Turtle Island, however, each pool seems to contain too many turtles, with many of them clambering on top of one another other.

Photo from Aaron Gekoski / FB

Snakes had their mouths taped up

Gekoski wrote that other animals like snakes, civets, bats and owls were found at the centres too.

The snakes' mouths were taped up, and one of their mouths had become red and raw-looking.

Photo from Aaron Gekoski / FB

Photo from Aaron Gekoski / FB

Photo from Aaron Gekoski / FB

From the pictures, the civets look like they were kept in rusty cages devoid of proper bedding and stimulation.

Photo from Aaron Gekoski / FB

Photo from Aaron Gekoski / FB

Negative reviews for conservation centres

Gekoski added that the "conservation centres" allegedly had the proper permits from the country's department of forestry, and that they even had the department's logo on display.

A quick Google search on Bali's Turtle Island revealed several websites offering tours around the island, with one website even touting it as a place "dedicated to turtle conservation".

And according to that website, tourists can take a one-and-a-half hour tour of the island, which costs 400,000 rupiahs (S$38) for two people.

However, a listing for Turtle Island on Trip Advisor showed that some visitors were in fact, aware of the horrors of the place.

Numerous users had left behind negative reviews of the island and its deplorable conditions.

In his post, Gekoski proceeded to implore everyone to refrain from visiting such places, as that would only fuel the centres' businesses, and in turn, contribute to the abuse of the animals.

"We ask that the authorities step in and do something about this situation which reflects very badly on Bali's tourism industry. If you agree, please share this post.

By visiting such places you are condemning the animals there to a lifetime of unimaginable suffering. Vote with your feet and do not attend venues that treat animals like this."

You can read Gekoski's full post here:

Top photo from Aaron Gekoski / FB