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“Mengenal Penyu-Belajar dari Pulau Piai” by Ferdiel Ballamu, as reported by *Nikka Gunadharma w/ introduction by **Dr. Mark Erdmann

This book, “Mengenal Penyu” (“Knowing Turtles-A study from Piai Island”) was written by Ferdiel Ballamu, turtle conservationist, one of the founders and the present chairman of Yayasan Penyu Papua (Papua’s Turtle Foundation) that was established in 2007.  Since establishment the foundation has been providing readers and researchers with data on Indonesia’s turtles.  This 114 page book is a summary of that work.

Author Ferdiel Ballamu

Focusing on YPP’s project on Piai Island in Raja Ampat, Ferdiel gives readers “VIP access” to the dynamics of the program, starting with its ups and downs, and working through the program’s constantly evolving challenges, to the story about the turtle itself. The information in this book is not simply based on theories about the lives of turtles, but it provides hard data and information, “empirical facts”, that have been collected and tested  by the author and his friends from YPP and its partners.
This book is part of YPP’s campaign to continue to raise awareness, as well as to invite active participation from the community to jointly protect the turtle population – given its extraordinary range – in West Papua, Indonesia.
Ferdiel Ballamu states, “Through this book the general public and school children, especially in West Papua, will receive information regarding the general question of why turtles are important and the need to protect them.” He adds, “Besides their natural history, another important fact that the public needs to be aware of is that sea turtle meat contains heavy metals that are harmful to human health so they are not suitable for consumption. Hopefully, through this book, people will realize and participate in conserving turtles in West Papua.”
When contacted later, Ferdiel says that his book is to be distributed for free!  So happy reading.  Download Mengenal Penyu.  (At this point the book is only available in Bahasa Indonesia.)

Front and back cover

From the book’s introduction by Dr. Mark Erdmann:
It gives me great pleasure to introduce this fascinating and informative new book on sea turtles by my longtime friend and conservation colleague, Ferdiel Ballamu. Richly illustrated with photos, stories, and data from the outstanding sea turtle conservation program on Pulau Piai, which Ferdiel manages with his colleagues from Yayasan Penyu Papua (YPP), this book is an important contribution to increase understanding and appreciation of sea turtles by communities and the general public in West Papua and Indonesia.
Begining with a comprehensive description of the 6 sea turtle species found in Indonesian waters–including their classification, ecology and life history characteristics–the book then focuses on the primary threats to sea turtles and their current conservation status.  It is at this point when this book really shows its value, as Ferdiel is able to use real-life examples and stories of the threats and conservation successes (and setbacks!) from his nearly two-decades’ long turtle conservation efforts on Pulau Piai in northern Raja Ampat.  He’s able to talk passionately about the treats of over-fishing as well as the effects of climate change that are already being seen on Piai’s  sea nesting turtles.  Ranging from sea level rise and loss of nesting habitat from beach abrasion to “femeninization” of Piai’s turtle hatchlings due to rising nest temperatures resulting in mostly female hatchlings.
His detailed explanation will most certainly be of interest to students and community members, ranging from showing the amazing migrations of turtles that nest in Piai, to feeding habitats as far away as Australia and northern Malaysia, to the dangers of consuming turtle meat and eggs due to heavy metal contamination.  He moreover provides a fascinating glimpse into the efforts and community engagement that has led to a dramatic increase in the successful turtle nesting in Piai between 2006-2021, along with some of the difficulties encountered.
The book also has an excellent and very complete reference section at the end.  Overall the book provides a delightful mix of general education on sea turtles with detailed descriptions on the threats and conservation action in Piai, and will be of interest to a broad audience ranging from students to conservationists.
I highly commend Ferdiel and his team at YPP for this book and their passion and commitment to West Papua’s sea turtles.  Happy Reading!  (Makes you want to take Bahasa Indonesia lessons!)
* Nikka Gunadharma is Konservasi Indonesia’s Raja Ampat Outreach and Communications Coordinator
** Dr. Mark Erdmann is a Vice President, Asia-Pacific Marine Programs, Conservation International
About the Author