KOTA KINABALU: Learning about environmental conservation can be exciting if it is presented creatively.
To get people, especially the youth, to learn more about marine and environmental conservation, a turtle festival was held for the first time on an island within Tun Mustapha Park (TMP), Malaysia’s largest marine sanctuary.
The festival on Tigabu Island organised by the Tigabu Youth Club (KBT) together with World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Malaysia involved the TMP within Sabah’s northern Kudat, Pitas and Kota Marudu districts.
This festival followed recent cases of turtle slaughters in Semporna.
Activity-based talks, arts and games sessions relating to the topic was held throughout the festival, giving participants a fun-filled learning experience.
The first island-based turtle hatchery was also launched on Tigabu in the Tun Mustapha Park, to raise awareness on turtle conservation and its threats such as fish bombing, by catch and cyanide use.
WWF-Malaysia Marine Programme Senior Communications and Campaigns officer Kimberly Chung said the TMP was a global symbol of how everyone can collectively commit to serving nature and humanity to benefit the environment and local communities.
“The area boasts a rich marine biodiversity and is home to elusive dugongs and endangered marine turtles as well as other regular visitors such as the migratory whales,” she said.
She added that diverse habitats ranging from mangroves to seagrass beds and coral reefs contributed to the rich marine biodiversity, which in turn, provided food security for not only 85,000 inhabitants, but also more than 120 million people in the Coral Triangle region.
Chung said Tigabu Island hosted the festival to highlight turtle conservation operations in the Tigabu-Tambulian-Kukuban Island Complex.
Pulau Banggi assemblyman Datuk Mijul Unaini, who launched the event, praised the youth club and youths for taking the initiative to learn about conserving turtles.
KBT invited the community of Tigabu to work together to protect marine turtles for future generations.
Club member Absan Saman said his main motivation in taking part in the programme was to defend one of the world’s most endangered animals from extinction and to conserve the species so that they continued to thrive in Tigabu and TMP.
The Tigabu-Tambulian-Kukuban Island Complex includes the three named islands as well as Mantabuan Island.
In April, KBT identified these areas as turtle nesting sites and supported recommendations for the TMP Management Plan.
These volunteers work with Sabah Parks to protect these turtle nesting islands and their surroundings, as well as combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, including bomb fishing.
Chung said active community participation in assisting enforcement agencies was needed to sustain the rich biodiversity and marine resources of a vast area such as the TMP.
“It is hoped that this festival and turtle conservation activities will spark a sense of awareness and pride among the communities of TMP in taking care of their marine environment and natural resources,” she said.