Keeping sea turtles from going extinct

A team from Tengah Island Conservation cleaning up a sea turtle egg hatchery. — Courtesy pic

HUMAN intervention plays an important role in protecting the country’s sea turtle population, which is currently under threat because of the ongoing heatwave.

Reef Check Malaysia (RCM) chief programme officer Alvin Chelliah said investing in items such as sea turtle excluder devices (TED) and propeller guards would not only protect the current population but also ensure their survival.

“A heatwave is something that occurs naturally and beyond our control. Warmer temperatures will produce more females, while colder temperatures will produce more males in a single nest.

“So, in the current situation, we will face an unstable sea turtle population if left unchecked.

“One of the ways to combat this issue is by placing all of these eggs in controlled incubators so that we can have populations that are closer to the real world scenario,” he said when contacted.

Alvin, however, said this method would be very costly as it would require a huge number of incubators to control the population.

“We could also introduce a large-scale hatchery that is divided between shaded and unshaded nests.

Alvin says placing eggs in controlled incubators can help to balance the population.Alvin says placing eggs in controlled incubators can help to balance the population.

“This move is also quite tricky, as we need to ensure that water can reach the incubated eggs so that it will not become dry, but not too much water as that will make the nest too damp.”

Alvin said an immediate action that could be taken was to introduce a policy that ensured all fishermen’s boats were equipped with TED and propeller guards, besides conducting more ocean clean-up for ghost nets.

“For example, one of the most common issues we come across in Pulau Tioman is sea turtles getting caught in ghost nets.

“Placing the TED and propeller guard might seem costly, but we should look at it as a long-term investment,” he said.

The cost, he said, should not matter compared to the risk of losing the sea turtle population.

Tengah Island Conservation (TIC) community engagement and environment awareness manager Mohd Alzam Mohd Affandy said its group had worked closely with the Fisheries Department (DOF), local non- governmental organisations and local communities to maintain conservation efforts in Mersing.

“We have been closely monitoring nesting activities around the islands off Mersing and helping relocate the eggs to a TIC hatchery to reduce the risk of eggs being collected for consumption.

“Each hatchery nest in TIC also has its temperature maintained to try to balance the number of male and female hatchlings produced,” he said.

He added that TIC was also working closely with DOF to promote best practices in collecting sea turtle eggs.

“TIC has also been conducting a weekly beach clean-up to ensure the nesting beaches and oceans are free from plastics and ghost nets,” said Alzam.

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Sea Turtle , Heatwave , Population , Human


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