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Turtle conservation programme a success

Posted on December 4, 2011, Sunday

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s turtle conservation programme offers new hope for the unique reptile threatened with extinction in other parts of the world.

The efforts taken in the state in protecting this endangered species has borne success for despite the global turtle population continuing to plummet, their numbers inSabahhave remained stable.

“In fact, there has been a slight increase in the turtles’ population inSabah. So, yes I think it has been a success,” said director of Sabah Parks, Paul Basintal.

Sabah Parks has been on the forefront of turtle conservation effort inSabahfor more than 30 years.

The agency officially assumed the role of custodian of the fragile animal in 1977 when theTurtleIslandsinSandakanwhich came under its jurisdiction were gazetted as a protected marine park.

Speaking to reporters after the launch of a Turtle Conservation Campaign 2011 at Suria Sabah here yesterday, Basintal said marine turtles were still facing various threats including from poachers although generally their population inSabahwas healthy and they were well-protected.

In fact, there had been proof of turtles hatched on the Turtle Islands Park (TIP) expanding to other areas.

“There is quite a considerable population on Mantanani island, and a recent study found that the juveniles growing there are actually hatchlings that we released from theTurtleIslands. They have the same DNA,” he said.

He also noted that after a tagging programme for the turtles at the TPI, the juveniles roam the oceans, travelling up pass thePhilippinesall the way toPalauin the Pacific and down to theKaiKecilIslandinIndonesia.

“Since we conducted the programme we learned that most of the turtles go to thePhilippines’ side, that’s why we have a working cooperation with them since 1996,” he said.

Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Elron Alfred Angin when officiating at the event said 218,305 turtle have been recorded to lay their eggs at the TPI since 1979.

Throughout the same period, he said 13.07 million hatchlings were successfully released from the islands.

“In many other areas in our country and the rest of the globe, the number of turtles landing to lay their eggs have dropped drastically, so drastic that sometimes only a few are recorded in a year. We don’t want this to happen inSabah.

“Turtle is one of the marine species given priority for protection, as can be seen through our move to gazette several marine parks under the Parks Enactment 1984,” he said.

Apart from the TPI, he said, there are several other important turtle conservation areas inSabah, including the Sugud Islands Marine Conservation Area (SIMCA) inSandakanwhich encompasses a few islands such as Langkayan.

Meanwhile, on a related issue, Basintal said turtle egg trading in Sabah was under control, with only a few cases being detected involving eggs from unprotected islands in thePhilippines.

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