GEORGE TOWN: The 23-year-old turtle conservation centre in Penang has scored a first, hatching its first batch of Olive Ridley turtle eggs.
The 39 hatchlings were from a batch of 65 eggs collected in Sungai Batu, at the south-eastern tip of the island, in mid-February.
Pantai Kerachut Turtle Conservation Centre head Mansor Yobe said the eggs hatched last week.
“We will rear the hatchlings till they are much larger to increase their chances of survival in the wild before releasing them.
“It is rare to see Olive Ridley hatchlings in Malaysia, so they will be a source of ecological education at our centre too,” he said at a ceremony to release six tagged adult green turtles and 40 green turtle hatchlings at the centre on Thursday.
Twenty guests of Penang Parkroyal Resort, led by its general manager Francois Gabriel Sigrist, were also present for the occasion.
Mansor recalled getting a telephone call one night in February from a villager in Sungai Batu, who told him of a turtle landing on the 200m stretch of beach there.
“That's how turtles behave. The late evening landings are only their reconnaissance trips,” he explained.
Mansor said he rushed to Sungai Batu after getting the call.
“All lights in the village were turned off and they kept the beach as dark and tranquil as possible,” he said.
The Olive Ridley returned at 1.30am and by 3am, Mansor collected 65 eggs and tagged the reptile before it returned to the sea.
He said it was the first time the centre had Olive Ridley hatchings although there had been past occurrences in other parts of Penang.
It had been reported that among the places where there had been Olive Ridley hatchlings was Teluk Kumbar in 2007 and 2009.
Mansor said the centre's conservation officers would keep a closer watch along the Sungai Batu-Gertak Sanggul stretch since there had been several Olive Ridley landings there.
He said the turtle eggs take about 50 days to hatch, with a hatching rate of 60%.
State Fisheries Department deputy director Noraisyah Abu Bakar described the turtle population in Penang as stable but fragile.
“Last year, we spotted 10 turtles making 50 landings. From them, we collected 5,606 eggs and hatched 3,201 of them,” she said, adding that the centre had released about 50,000 green turtle hatchlings into the sea since 1990.