Positive conservation outcome from religious teachings

changes to subsistence turtle harvest practices at Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Indian Ocean

I MacRae, Scott David Whiting

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

We document and describe the change in attitudes, hunting behaviour and historic subsistence use of sea turtles by Cocos Malay people of Islamic faith in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Indian Ocean over the last 180 years. We used several lines of evidence including historical documents, scientific journals, archived records and interviews with current and former residents. The results are grouped in two time categories: 1) use of turtles prior to mid-1980s and 2) use of turtles after mid-1980s. Prior to the mid-1980s, turtle meat was popular with Muslim residents and was consumed when available and was particularly appreciated during times of ceremony. After the mid-1980s, external influences and improved communication modified Islamic teachings and sea turtles were reclassified from halal (permitted as food) to haram (prohibited as food). After the mid-1980s, harvest and the use of turtles decreased to negligible numbers. Although a combination of various events and circumstances may have contributed to this change in harvest practices, changes to Islamic teachings were likely to be the main factor. These changes in use appeared to have had a dramatic positive effect on the resident green (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) turtle populations, from what appeared to be harvest-related depressed numbers prior to the 1980s, recovering to abundant numbers after 1999. From a management perspective, this is a positive conservation outcome for sea turtles, at both local and regional (Indian Ocean) scales. 
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-167
Number of pages6
JournalRaffles Bulletin of Zoology
VolumeSupplement No 30
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Cocos Islands
subsistence
Indian Ocean
turtle
turtles
teaching
sea turtles
Eretmochelys imbricata
Muslims
Chelonia mydas
animal communication
interviews
food
harvest
meat
hunting
communication

Cite this

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title = "Positive conservation outcome from religious teachings: changes to subsistence turtle harvest practices at Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Indian Ocean",
abstract = "We document and describe the change in attitudes, hunting behaviour and historic subsistence use of sea turtles by Cocos Malay people of Islamic faith in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Indian Ocean over the last 180 years. We used several lines of evidence including historical documents, scientific journals, archived records and interviews with current and former residents. The results are grouped in two time categories: 1) use of turtles prior to mid-1980s and 2) use of turtles after mid-1980s. Prior to the mid-1980s, turtle meat was popular with Muslim residents and was consumed when available and was particularly appreciated during times of ceremony. After the mid-1980s, external influences and improved communication modified Islamic teachings and sea turtles were reclassified from halal (permitted as food) to haram (prohibited as food). After the mid-1980s, harvest and the use of turtles decreased to negligible numbers. Although a combination of various events and circumstances may have contributed to this change in harvest practices, changes to Islamic teachings were likely to be the main factor. These changes in use appeared to have had a dramatic positive effect on the resident green (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) turtle populations, from what appeared to be harvest-related depressed numbers prior to the 1980s, recovering to abundant numbers after 1999. From a management perspective, this is a positive conservation outcome for sea turtles, at both local and regional (Indian Ocean) scales. ",
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Positive conservation outcome from religious teachings : changes to subsistence turtle harvest practices at Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Indian Ocean. / MacRae, I; Whiting, Scott David.

In: Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Vol. Supplement No 30, 2014, p. 162-167.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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