KOTA KINABALU: The first dedicated turtle rescue centre in Sabah was officially launched yesterday, marked with the release of its first rescued turtle back into the sea.
The launch was officiated by Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun, who also helped to carry the turtle, named Bobby, from its temporary holding tank into the water.
The turtle rescue centre is part of the Gaya Island Marine Centre (GIMC), which was also officiated by Masidi yesterday.
Located on Gaya Island within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, GIMC also carries out coral reef restoration and marine conservation education programmes.
“The story of Bobby is a happy one, a story of hope,” said Masidi in his officiating speech.
He also launched a hard-cover coffee table book entitled “Natural Wonders” featuring plants, animals and places of interest at and around YTL Hotel properties around the world.
YTL Hotel is the operator of Gaya Island Resort, along with several other resorts and hotels in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, China, Japan, France and UK, including the recipient of 2003 world’s best resort award winner, Pangkor Laut Resort.
The resort’s marine biologist, Scott Mayback, said they found the turtle floating near the island five months ago.
“The turtle tank was not completed yet at the time but we decided to bring it back and try to nurture it back to health. We named it Bobby.
“It was in very bad shape. It could not dive or eat and there were several times I’ve mistaken it to be dead, because it was so inactive.
“In fact, the only thing that it could eat for the first three months were fish oil, which we injected directly to its oesophagus. One day, we took a leap of faith and tried a new antibiotic and the result is the healthy turtle that you see today,” said Mayback before releasing Bobby.
Masidi in his address also touched on the importance of conserving and preserving nature, and turning it into a sustainable economic earner for the State.
He said Sabah is blessed with natural wonders like nowhere else but faced with many challenges in maintaining these priceless resources for the next generation.
“Our philosophy is that less is more. We want to leave a legacy for the next generation. We don’t want to just preserve what we have but make it even better.
“This, however, is not an easy task because we are surrounded by people who only want to make a quick buck, people who want to sell turtle eggs, those who want to harvest all the logs without a care for conserving the forest,” he said.
Despite having to deal with many obstacles, he said Sabah is steadily and surely heading towards the right direction in ensuring its natural resources are used in a sustainable manner.
He noted that the State is on its way to achieving its goal of keeping 60 per cent of its land under forest cover.
“Some ten years ago, our revenue from logging was more than RM2 billion but today the industry only earns a few hundred million due to significant reduction of logging concession areas.
“At the same time, our revenues from tourism has increased drastically, roughly RM5 billion today. So, we have more than made up for the loss,” he said.
Masidi also said that he expected the tourism sector to continue growing at a faster rate than previously predicted.
He reckoned Sabah would exceed the three million tourist arrivals targeted for this year, adding that the tourism receipts for Sabah may reach up to RM5.8 billion, surpassing the initial target of RM5.2 billion.