SANDAKAN: News of dead turtles washed ashore on the beaches of Pulau Gaya and Sipitang have been disappointing for the turtle conservation community of Sabah lately.
However, there is a silver lining in these glooming clouds. The honorary wildlife wardens of Taman Hadiah Turtle Hatchery on Pulau Libaran have noticed an increased frequency of turtle nesting on the island recently.
For many years, villagers of the island have been taking the turtle eggs from the nestlings either to sell or for personal consumption. Over the years the number of turtle nesting has declined.
In 2012, Trekkers Lodge Sdn Bhd set up a hatchery on Libaran as part of a turtle conservation program made available through the subsequent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Sabah Wildlife Department in July 2013.
The programme includes creating awareness for the locals and visitors on the conservation value of sea turtles, undertaking research projects with the goal of better understanding the life cycle of sea turtles surrounding the Libaran island area and to make available research programs on sea turtle for international and local students.
About 14 honorary wildlife wardens were trained towards this end. Harun Bin Haris, a villager on Pulau Libaran was one of them and he has been working at Taman Hadiah since 2013.
“During March of 2013, we only have four nestlings and during 2014 and 2015, we got 10 and 11 respectively.
“This year, we have received six nestlings thus far, so we will be expecting the number of nestling to surpass last year,” Harun added.
Meanwhile, one green turtle came ashore and laid 73 healthy eggs on the evening of March 13.
Since FOSTER (Friends Of Sea Turtles Education and Research) started work on Libaran island, turtle landings on the island have seen a marked increase and during November 2011 till December 2015, 21,672 baby turtles have been released into the ocean from Taman Hadiah of which 14,851 are Green Turtles and 6,821 are Hawksbill Turtles.
Green and Hawksbill turtles are both totally protected species under the Sabah Wildlife Enactment 1997. Possessing and consuming of turtle eggs are also illegal in Sabah. Offenders can face a fine of RM50,000 or five years’ imprisonment, or both.