KOTA KINABALU: A growing awareness of turtle conservation has seen more members of the public surrendering their endangered turtle pets anonymously.
Friends of Sea Turtles Education and Research (Foster) vice-president James Leong was taken by surprise when he found four baby green turtles placed in a bucket of water that was left at the entrance to his office in Sandakan on Sunday.
“It is a good sign,” he said.
“People are giving up the endangered species and passing it to us for its survival and conservation efforts.”
He believed that the person who surrendered the turtles wanted to do it anonymously for fear of legal action by authorities.
“I believe he or she might have read about the work done by Foster on Libaran Island (off Sandakan) and came to us,” he added.
Foster operates a turtle hatchery at Libaran Island where conservation programme is being implemented by collaborating with the Sabah Wildlife Department.
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 programmes on sea turtle for international and local students.
Leong said that the baby turtles, aged about a month or two, were released back in waters off Libaran.
Green and Hawksbill turtles are both totally protected species under the Sabah Wildlife Enactment 1997.
Anyone caught in possession or consuming turtle eggs could be fined RM50,000 or be imprisoned five years, or both, if convicted.
Since Foster started work on Libaran island, turtle landings on the island have seen a marked increase.
From 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.
Foster president Alexander Yee said they would continue stepping up awareness education at schools.
They would also produce a booklet on Sea Turtle Volunteer Programme on Libaran Island in the next six months.