My Sri Lankan experience: sea turtles, plastic and more plastic

I came to Sri Lanka thinking it’ll be good to volunteer with turtles and at the same time, it’ll be a great beach holiday-break. While researching for a good volunteering company and programme, I found the Mighty Roar and I decided to register with them on their sea turtles project to get to know more about the conservation.

I’m so glad to have volunteered with them because what I learnt during this trip became a life changing experience for me as my trip turned out to be an intense reality check on today’s world problem- plastic and it’s disastrous effects on marine life, specifically on sea turtles.

With regards to volunteering, various activities were assigned to volunteers. For example, there was the hatchery project, building baby turtles nests, sanctuary cleaning and taking care of baby turtles. One of the activities I chose was beach cleaning as this would help turtles for when they come to lay eggs.

At night, a group of volunteers used to patrol the beach in Akurala. Beach patrolling was my favorite part of this project, not only I learnt about turtles and their environment but we were also protecting them from poachers. I, personally, witnessed turtles coming on the beach thrice and each time I was amazed at these giant creatures. I’d stay till late at the beach and admire them, listen to the sound of waves and a couple of times see some stars shooting across the sky. It all seemed wonderful until I learnt about and saw how plastic is impacting marine life.

It was a Wednesday afternoon when a few of us started cleaning the beach, I was given some black bags and gloves and here I went thinking this is going to be an easy task! I remember thinking that this activity would take an hour or so and then I could just relax at the beach! The reality was different… I spent four hours cleaning a part of the beach and there was a lot of trash! I found plastic bottles, straws, cutleries, toothbrushes, along with various types of plastic packaging! Some of the waste had been there for ages, you could see all the algae on it. It was very sad and upsetting to see the amount of plastic there. However, I was happy to know that people are making an effort to protect our nature. I was happy that I could be a part of this and make a small change. The most satisfying and rewarding part of beach cleaning was when I saw another turtle coming that night on the beach to lay eggs.

After two days of cleaning, we had a plastic-free beach, I realized the importance of the work done when I saw 25 big black bags filled with plastic and a nice clean beach! It was great teamwork, I was very proud of it and so was the local community.

Some of the black bags

It’s a great feeling when you know you have helped somebody, in this case it was turtles. As the Dalaï Lama beautifully said : “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others and if you can’t help them at least don’t hurt them”.

That night, I started thinking about the amount of plastic I use in my everyday life and how I’m indirectly responsible for the suffering and killing of our marine life… I researched and found that 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year! That’s way too much! Also by 2050, there’ll be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Currently, plastic microparticles are getting into the flesh of fish eaten by humans! I thought that change needs to take place immediately. That moment was an awakening moment for me and I decided to reduce my plastic footprint because no animal should be suffering because of our selfishness and carelessness.

Many of us in our daily lives use so much plastic without thinking of it’s consequences. We tend to think it’s getting recycled and because we can’t see it, we think it’s disappeared/vanished and it’s not our problem anymore.

Well… it actually becomes a major problem not only for humans but for animals too! Our oceans are filled with an unthinkable amount of plastic and we are responsible for each animal that’s suffering, dying or has died! According to Conserve Turtles, over 100 million marine animals are killed each year because of plastic debris and 700 marine species may go extinct because of plastic, or mainly because of us, I should say!

You and I have so much power to change our way of living and live with less or no plastic, we can do this to protect our nature and oceans, we owe it to our wonderful planet and future generations.

You can help in so many ways – first of all boycotting single use plastic (plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic straws, plastic cutleries), there are so many alternatives out there, I’ll be posting in my next article soon. Then make sure your face wash, shower gel and toothpaste doesn’t contain micro beads. These tiny beads easily travel through water filtration and end up in our lakes and oceans. Also, if you see any plastic on the beach, on the street, anywhere don’t hesitate to pick it up and bin it. Keep our environment clean. A bird wouldn’t know the difference between its food and plastic debris, so please bin your rubbish! A simple act helps a lot and goes a long way!

Be more conscious of the amount of plastic you use in your everyday life and start changing it. I’m not asking you to throw every single piece of plastic that you have in your house, I’m asking you to stop buying going forward plastic bottles, straws, cutleries, toiletries, cleaning products, etc

Let’s be part of a bigger community who are going to make this change. Make your voice heard, set an example and say NO to single use plastic! Together let’s protect our environment!

Change has already started and it needs to continue because there’s no turning back! We only have this planet, and no amount of money is going to save it! The only way we can help our planet is by changing our way of living!

It might seem impossible to some of you, but it’s something that has already started in countries like Kenya and Rwanda. Single use plastic is banned there! If they can do it, we can do it too! As Gandhi said “be the change you wish to see in this world”, let’s be that change!

I really hope that at least one of you will change their way of living by reading my article! Join me in this journey and let’s make a change now because together we can save our environment!

If you’d like to know more about my volunteering programme, please check The Mighty Roar

Thanks for taking time to read my article. Your comments and feedback are always welcome.

The Army came to thank us for all the cleaning done



#plasticfreeworld #marinelifeconservation #seaturtles #TMRvol #SriLanka #SriLanka2018

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