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Home » Environment & Nature

Conservation versus Tradition  

by on Wednesday, 21 February 2007No Comment | 1,710 views

The issue on green turtle conservation in Bali had long been solved. There is no turtle satay seller on the roadside of Denpasar. Serangan island is no longer a “killing field” of thousands turtle but a conservation center for hundreds of green turtle, a Turtle education center was also established there, on legal ground there is a Bali Governor Decree No. 243, passed in 1999 in Bali, revoking the quota for green turtle take in Bali. The priests and theologians urged people to reduce their consumption of turtle meat and instead replace turtle meat in rituals with drawings or turtle-shaped rice cakes. However, something is missing, the awareness of Balinese people on turtle conservation.


Turtle trade ban makes turtle meat a rare item and the most sought after meat in the island. A feast with turtle meat nowadays in Bali is considered a sign of prestige. No Balinese man in his right man will refuse a chance to enjoy rare turtle meat. In a mebat (preparing food for a ceremony) activity I attended last month. I encountered an interesting sight, the main meat for the mebat activity that day was turtle. All participants seemed so exciting, “it was a rare chance to eat turtle meat” said my uncle. Most of them blamed the government for taking away the joy of mebat by banning the turtle trade banning the turtle trade, no one bothered to think why government bans the turtle trade. They did not have any idea on turtle conservation; the question “how many turtle left in Bali?” did not even exist in their mind on that time. Banning an item will likely increase the demand on that item.


Replacing turtle meat in rituals with drawings or turtle-shaped rice cakes may seem to be logic for non-Balinese people but it is quite unacceptable for many Balinese. Though the scripture allow the substitution but for the Balinese there is a sense of guilty for not presenting the best offering they can afford to the God, and of course drawings or turtle-shaped rice cakes is not as good as turtle meat in Balinese perception. There also a problem of prestige plays important role in this substitution issue. The Balinese do not perceive substituting turtle meat with drawings or turtle-shaped rice cakes as an act of awareness of turtle conservation but rather a reluctance to spend some money for the meat. Any skimping on preparation of the offering for ceremony will undermine the prestige of the organizer of the ceremony.


Although the priests and theologians urged to replace turtle meat in rituals with drawings or turtle-shaped rice cakes but Balinese put a more emphasis on what surrounding community said. For Balinese, a man without prestige and honor does not fit to be called a man.


The awareness level of the community on the turtle conservation has to be increased so they do not feel that the turtle trade ban is a kind of oppression to their freedom of enjoying turtle meat but as an act of preserving green turtle.

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