NAIFARU JUVENILE HOSTS THE THIRD ANNUAL TURTLE FESTIVAL
Naifaru Island, June 30, 2018: On a sunny day in June, the third Lhaviyani Turtle Festival was held in Naifaru Island. Organized by NGO Naifaru Juvenile in collaboration with Atoll Marine Center and Atoll Volunteers, the annual turtle festival aims to spread environmental awareness and fuel passion for protecting turtles and other marine life. The festive event was attended by UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in the Maldives, Ms. Shoko Noda, and saw the participation of schools and resorts from all over the Lhaviyani Atoll.
Naifaru Juvenile is one of the partner NGOs of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Under a Global Environment Facility (GCF) andc UNDP funded project, Naifaru Juvenile set up a Marine Laboratory in (date). Activities undertaken at the laboratory included study of various breeds of clown fish, and the separation of clown fish found in the Maldivesfrom other breeds. Clownfish are important as the fish, together with their anemones inside which they live, help keep corals oxygenated.
UNDP aims to build on such efforts to help the work of local NGOs, and under the Partnership for the Sustainable Development Goals, UNDP Maldives started work in linking such projects with new partners, such as the private sector.
A partnership was forgedwith the State Bank of India to expand Naifaru Junevile’s marine laboratoryto facilitate more than the work done around clown fish. It then also became a sanctuary to rehabilitate turtles.The Atoll Volunteers team who works with Naifaru Juvenile and partners, had a number of turtles rescued and rehabilitated with the help of this marine laboratory.
Atoll Volunteers are a team of enthusiastic volunteers from all around the world passionate about marine life. They work to locate turtles that were kept in captivity as babies, and slowly rehabilitate them to return to life in the open ocean. The first step of rehabilitation of turtles is to strengthen their immune system. The turtles are then monitored and slowly trained to adapt to the open sea. During the adaptation process they learn to locate and eat food in an enclosure placed in the sea. Once rehabilitation process is complete, the team says their goodbyes to these turtles by tagging them for research purposes, and releasing them into their natural habitats.
HIGHLIGHTS OF TURTLE FESTIVAL
Eco-Youth is an NGO based in Naifaru island, operating since 1995. Their display consisted of a child-friendly method for agricultural farming. Their objective was to attract more young children to take an interest in agriculture and understand various methods of farming. They demonstrated rice plantation, which is not a usual agro practice in the Maldives.
UNDP visited their farm, which gave us a better understanding of the work being done in the island by the NGO to experiment with different farming models suitable for the Maldives. Greenhouses are built at the farm separate for lettuce, cucumber, tomato and rice.
Releasing of Turtles
One of the main highlights of the turtle festival was releasing the rehabilitated turtles into the wild. There were three turtles, which were rescued, trained and rehabilitated to be released on the day of the festival. One turtle had a satellite antenna attached in order to track the location of the turtle. This would be used for research purpose to identify the route of travel of the turtles from the point of release.
UN’s Shoko Noda released a turtle named Pygmy who was kept illegally as a pet in a local home. He was rescued and brought to Naifaru Juvenile, with his rear legs bitten off by other pet turtles. He was rehabilitated at the marine lab, and once set on beach, he was the first one to head out to the ocean to undertake a new chapter of his life.
Schools from all over the atoll that joined the festival had a competition among them to display their efforts in reducing plastic pollution. They displayed items made from recycled materials with the objective of promoting re-use of nonperishable materials. In addition to this, the stalls imparted information on the importance of saving turtles and protecting the ocean.
The event ended with a competition to make sand sculptures by the beach and a traditional dance followed by the award ceremony.