Tim Harvey

Founder of the Sea Turtle Foundation

For Tim Harvey, protecting sea turtles is his passion, which is why he established the Sea Turtle Foundation. Tim now guides for us and takes his long-time experience with wildlife and reef-creatures, helping inspire a generation of conservationists. We interviewed Tim and asked him his views on turtles, the reef and the role of communities in its protection.

1. In your experience, how do people react to the reef when they see it for the first time?

Honestly … a lot of people are quite disappointed when they first see the Great Barrier Reef. Brochures that promote the reef tend to show photographs that are almost Carribean-esque. Here there are no palm trees and the really brightly coloured corals are only in isolated spots (and sometimes a bit deeper).

The key is in getting people to slow down, stop and look, spend the time … then they are blown away. You need to actually guide people and give them a helping hand to understand the narrative behind the reef.

Once they get used to that, they think it’s amazing.

2. Have you ever failed to convince someone of the value of the reef experience?

Never! Ever! Once you’ve explained how it functions, the story behind the reef unfolds. It’s no different to any experience. A classic example is the Parthenon. It’s a ruin and if you didn’t know it, you wouldn’t realise it used to be coloured and painted. Once you’ve built the stories, it comes alive. You’re staring at a really complex thing that you will never fully appreciate, so just scratch the surface and it opens up a mystery as significant as the planets and solar system. It’s truly inspiring and overwhelming.

3. What do people gain personally from seeing sea turtles in the wild for the first time … or any time?

They truly gain a strong emotional link to something in nature, perhaps for the first time. They are awe-inspired. The reaction is normally “bloody ‘ell, they are bigger than we thought they were!” A mental shift occurs in people’s preconceived ideas of turtles. They are enormous!

They get this massive emotional attachment, because they’re looking at something quite prehistoric. They aren’t cuddly … not the most attractive animal in the world … but totally harmless - turtles do their thing and we get to stand around and watch.

They are mysterious animals with an undeviating reliability for existence that’s lasted millennia. They herald from a time without humans. They’ve ruled the oceans for millions of years yet they are benign, peaceful and graceful. You can’t help feeling a certain sense of responsibility to look after them.

Tim Harvey with a Turtle on Heron Island

4. What are the things that people can do at home to help protect turtles?

Supporting groups like the Sea Turtle Foundation with donations helps - because even if you don’t have the time to help, there are people out there constantly working on these matters and lobbying on your behalf. It also helps us work with all the local groups on the ground, as together, this is where the real work is taking place.

That said, we’d like people to keep pressure on their local representatives and our national leaders, to take reef conservation seriously, implement real measures to protect it and continue to support and fund real on-the-ground work.

Of course the other thing you can do to support is come and see sea turtles yourself … the trips we run inspire others by spreading the word and directly raise money for the organisations we support.

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