Eco-friendly luxury resort operator Soneva has announced a partnership between its Soneva Jani resort in Maldives and the Olive Ridley Project.
The aim of the official new partnership involves hiring a special Turtle Biologist to oversee the Turtle ID Database in Noonu Atoll, monitor turtle nesting activity at Soneva Jani, and eventually run the rehabilitation centre that will be built on the island to help sick and injured sea turtles regain their health. The Turtle Biologist will also run regular workshops and activities for guests at Soneva Jani to help raise awareness about turtle biology, their importance in the marine environment, and the threats they face today.
“We are thrilled to partner with Soneva Jani and look forward to working together to protect sea turtles in the Noonu Atoll. Our collaboration will provide a platform that ensures the best possible care for injured sea turtles and allows us to better monitor populations in the region. We are proud to be working alongside a dedicated and passionate team that share common values towards the marine environment,” Martin Stelfox, Founder and CEO of the Olive Ridley Project, was quoted in a statement, as saying.
Soneva Jani has been working with the Olive Ridley Project since 2017, during which the resort’s resident marine biologist has worked to remove ghost nets from the ocean, assisted in the rescue of injured turtles, and contributed valuable sea turtle photo ID’s to build a database of turtles resident in the Noonu atoll. The hotel has also welcomed Olive Ridley Project’s Senior Project Scientist Dr. Jillian Hudgins and Lead Veterinarian Surgeon Dr. Claire Petros to the island to conduct training and awareness sessions for both guests and staff on the subject of turtle rehabilitation, and to educate people on the dangers of ghost nets in the ocean.
“We are delighted to announce our recent partnership with the Olive Ridley Project, which will serve as a valuable platform for us to continue our commitment to raising awareness about the dangers that sea turtles face today,” Eleanor Butler, Soneva Jani’s Marine Biologist, said.
“The Olive Ridley Project is renowned in the Maldives for their ongoing, selfless work in turtle conservation, and we are beyond proud to be a part of this.”
Every year, it is estimated that 640,000 tonnes of ghost nets are discarded at sea, which amounts to 10 percent of the world’s total marine debris. Ghost nets are commercial fishing nets that have been lost, abandoned, or discarded at sea. Every year, they are responsible for trapping and killing millions of marine animals including sharks, rays, bony fish, turtles, dolphins, whales, crustaceans, and birds. Ghost nets cause further damage by entangling live coral, smothering reefs and introducing parasites and invasive species into reef environments. Between July 2013 and July 2018, there were 601 turtle entanglements recorded in discarded fishing nets in the Maldives alone.
The Maldives is home to five species of sea turtles, the most frequently spotted out of these five are the Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata). Loggerheads, Leatherbacks and Olive Ridley turtles are the rarer species. Although all species of turtles have been protected by law in the Maldives since 1995, the major threats to these animals continue to be egg and meat poaching and entanglement in marine debris. All seven of the world’s species of sea turtles are on IUCN’s Red List with the Hawksbill turtle being listed as the most critically endangered out of the seven.
The Olive Ridley Project, a UK Registered Charity (No. 1165905), was founded in 2013 due to the large numbers of Olive Ridley sea turtles being entangled in fishing nets in the Maldives, where this turtle species is particularly rare. Most encounters with this vulnerable sea turtle in the Maldives are under stressful conditions; entangled in ghost nets, or floating injured on the surface. Turtles trapped in ghost nets regularly suffer from exhaustion, malnutrition, buoyancy issues and deep lacerations around the neck and flippers, and commonly require further specialist care and long term rehabilitation after being cut free from the net.
Opened in December 2016, Soneva Jani is Soneva’s newest property and the world-leading luxury hotel group’s second resort in the Maldives.
Soneva Jani is located on the island of Medhufaru within a 5.6 kilometre lagoon in the Noonu Atoll, and has uninterrupted ocean views in all directions. The lagoon is 35 minutes by seaplane from Velana International Airport and one hour by speedboat from Soneva Fushi.
Meaning ‘wisdom’ in Sanskrit, Soneva Jani currently comprises 24 overwater villas and one island villa, with additional villas to be built in phase two. Five islands encircle the lagoon, each one with soft white sands and covered in rich tropical vegetation. Four of the five islands will remain untouched, making Soneva Jani the lowest density development in the Maldives. The overwater villas are spaced across the expansive lagoon, offering privacy and extensive views over the Maldives’ turquoise waters. The island villas will be tucked into the lush greenery, providing the ultimate privacy, and all within steps of the beach.
Soneva Jani’s main guest facilities are located at The Gathering, the heart of the overwater villas. This dramatic three story structure is home to the main dining outlets, in addition to the Soneva Spa, library, retail area and wine cellar. It is located next to the Maldives’ first overwater Observatory.
Facilities on the island include the overwater Cinema Paradiso, the Eco Centro Waste-to-Wealth centre, organic gardens, tennis courts, water sports champa and Zuhair’s Beach on a desert island in the lagoon.