GEORGE TOWN: The Olive Ridley species of turtles, which last returned to Penang in 2019, are back to lay their eggs.
More than 100 hatchlings are currently under the care of the Fisheries Department in Penang and Terengganu before they will be released back to the sea by the end of this month.
Penang Fisheries Department director Yazeereen A. Bakar said hatchlings of the species that were spotted on the beach behind a hotel in Teluk Bahang last month marked the return of the Olive Ridley after a four-year hiatus.
She said Penang, Pahang and Terengganu are among the states famous for the presence of Olive Ridley turtles.
“However, the landing trends of Olive Ridley and leatherback turtles in Penang have decreased due to natural and human threats.
“The last time Olive Ridley turtles returned to lay eggs on the beaches around Penang was in 2019,” she said in an interview.
Yazeereen said rapid development was among the causes of turtles not returning to lay eggs, adding that some were killed after getting entangled in fishing nets or garbage.
She said on March 15, the department received a report from the public of a young Olive Ridley hatchling on the beach around a hotel in Teluk Bahang.
“A team from our Resource Conservation and Protection Branch rushed to the scene and found 110 hatchlings there.
“The hatchlings were then taken to the Turtle Conservation Centre in Pantai Kerachut for further conservation and care before they are released into the sea,” she added.
Yazeereen said some of the hatchlings have been handed over to the Rantau Abang Fisheries Department in Terengganu and are all expected to be released by the end of this month.
The Olive Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), also known commonly as the Pacific Ridley sea turtle, is the second smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world, growing to about 61cm in carapace length.
They can be found in warm and tropical waters, primarily in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, but also in the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Female Olive Ridley turtles nest one to three times per season, laying an average of 100 to 110 eggs per clutch.