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“Reptile-Like” Bird and Sea Turtles Released on Indonesian Beach

A student volunteer on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi participates in the wild release of a maleo chick, an unusual bird able to fly and fend for itself soon after hatching. The release is part of a conservation program to protect the maleo and three species of threatened sea turtles.
A student volunteer on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi participates in the wild release of a maleo chick, an unusual bird able to fly and fend for itself soon after hatching. The release is part of a conservation program to protect the maleo and three species of threatened sea turtles.

A remote, protected beach on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi is a critical nesting area for “strange” birds called maleos and olive ridley sea turtles, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in New York.

On February 23 on Sulawesi’s Binerean Cape, conservationists with WCS and local partner PALS (Pelestari Alam Liar dan Satwa, or Wildlife and Wildlands Conservation) released two newly hatched maleo chicks and 34 newly hatched olive ridley sea turtles.

The chicks flew right into the woods and the turtles headed out to sea. The beach is owned and managed by PALS, as of October 2013, thanks in part to funds raised by WCS.

The threatened maleo is a chicken-sized bird with a black head, yellow face, “and a nesting strategy more reptilian than avian,” reports WCS:

After burying their eggs in sun-baked beaches or, in some instances, volcanically heated soil, the maleo parents abandon their nest. After an incubation period of approximately 70 days, the chicks emerge fully feathered, able to fly and fend for themselves.

Maleos live only on the islands of Sulawesi and Buton and there are only an estimated 8,000-14,000 mature birds left.  They are threatened by habitat loss thanks to development and egg poachers.

One of the smaller sea turtles, weighing up to 100 pounds, olive ridley turtles are widely distributed but are listed as “vulnerable” internationally, thanks to declining numbers. They are also targeted by egg poachers and affected by habitat loss.

4. Local student with a maleo egg that has not yet hatched
A local student holds a maleo egg. Maleo nests located on Sulawesi’s Binerean Cape are guarded from egg poachers, one of the principal threats to maleos as well as sea turtles.
2. Maleos on beach in Binerean no ribbon
With help from WCS, the conservation program centers on a stretch of beach located on Sulawesi’s Binerean Cape, a critical nesting ground for both maleos (pictured here) and sea turtles and now owned and managed by PALS, a local NGO.
3. maleo digging (in pusian)#3
Maleos digging a nesting hole. After laying their eggs in either sun-heated beaches or volcanically heated soil, the adult birds abandon their nest. Maleo chicks receive no parental care and are capable of surviving on their own.

 

Nest guards release a clutch of olive ridley turtle hatchlings with local volunteers.
Nest guards release a clutch of olive ridley turtle hatchlings with local volunteers.
An olive ridley sea turtle hatchling heads for the open sea. The Binerean protected beach also serves as a nesting ground for green and leatherback sea turtles.
An olive ridley sea turtle hatchling heads for the open sea. The Binerean protected beach also serves as a nesting ground for green and leatherback sea turtles.