A familiar sight along the Galle Road between Bentota and Hikkaduwa, particularly in Kosgoda, are the numerous battered signs for an ever-growing multitude of turtle hatcheries set up in recent years in response to the rapidly declining numbers of turtles visiting Sri Lanka’s beaches. Staffed by volunteers, and funded by tourist donations, the hatcheries buy the turtles’ eggs (at above market value) from local fishermen and rebury them in safe locations; once hatched, the babies are kept in concrete tubs for a few days before being released into the sea. Despite the hatcheries’ (mostly) laudable aims however, questions have long been raised over their effectiveness – it is almost impossible to replicate the turtles’ natural incubation and hatching conditions, and as a consequence the overwhelming majority succumb to disease or predators – and there is little evidence that they have helped to reverse the turtles’ declining fortunes.

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