Malaysia is the nesting home to 4 different species of turtles; the Leatherbacks, Olive Ridleys, Hawksbills and Green turtles. But in recent years only 2 out of the 4 species have been seen to nest here.
The Olive Ridley and the Leatherbacks haven’t been spotted nesting in the shores of Malaysia since the mid 2000. It’s been said and recorded that these species has been declining at an alarming rate since the 90’s. At one point Rantau Abang in Malaysia attracted Leatherback turtles in the thousands to almost none at all now.
Why? Because of us. Yes, us, the human race.
Here are a few things we can do to help conserve the turtles we have left.
- Don’t purchase anything that is turtle shell: Some fishermen & poachers still do kill turtles for their shells and stock it up, hoping that in future it would be desirable and fetch a high price as it once did before.
- Do not consume turtle meat or eggs: I don’t quite care how delicious it taste, if you keep eating them, they will go extinct like the Dodo bird! *On another note: Hawksbill turtle meat are said to be poisonous and does make you very ill if not consequence in death if consumed. Also, turtle meat might and have other bacteria that can make a person seriously ill. Read: Sea Turtles – What Not To Eat
- Do NOT touch them. Touching or grabbing hold on to a turtle disturbs them as well as it causes harm to them.
- Don’t be a litterbug. Stop throwing rubbish into the river or the sea. One way or the other the rubbish will end up in the open seas and oceans. Bad enough that turtles get caught in fishing nets, but they also get caught in plastic bags and other imperishable debris.
- Don’t scream for joy. The slightest noise would scare a nesting turtle off. The turtle is under stress as she’s in labour plus as maternal instincts would kick in, she wants her eggs to be safe. So keep a low voice when you spot a turtle, stay still and call on a member from the turtle conservation group would be a wise idea.
- Don’t go happy snapping with your flashy camera. The slightest light can harm a turtle and freak them out. Flash photography as well as bright light from your mobile phone can distract or confuse. So a red filtered light is used. Also, bon fires on a beach, during nesting season are also a no. *A turtle would come a shore as much at 3 times to find a suitable nest. If you scare her in this process, she would regress and release the eggs in the water. This would cause an entire nest to be lost.
- Stay behind the turtle. When a turtle comes a shore to nest, its in stress. She will look for suitable place to make a nest before releasing the eggs. Wait till she settles (this is when everything goes silent) and approach slowly. The turtle goes into a trance like state when it’s laying eggs, which allows you to approach and watch at a safe distance. Always stay behind the turtle’s front flippers and stay clear of her head.
- Do not touch the eggs. Any form of movement of the eggs will cause them to deform. When the eggs are being laid, they are coated in a layer of mucus or ‘chemical’ that freezes their growth process. This process goes straight into kick-start action as soon as it hits sand. So how do they move the nest? That you can ask your turtle guide, all you need to know is that you should never touch them!
- Get out of the way. Stay clear of their path and give them room to make their way to the sea.
- They don’t need a helping hand. Do not attempt to help them, as they need to do make it to the sea on their own. This way, they would remember where they came from and make it back here to nest when they are older.
- No bright lights! This includes flash photography. Like before, it would disorientate and confuse them and they might not be able to find their way back to the same beach.
- Watch where you step! You don’t want to accidently step on the little buggers, so be cautious when you’re walking on the beach.
Now those are just some of the advice. Its better to have a guide and follow their advise. Guides know the best times to watch a nesting turtle as well as handle the nests. So it’s best to leave it to the experts and take lead from them.
Bubbles Dive Resort has turtle talks every evening and these are some of the things that they will tell you during the talk. They also have a Turtle Conservation program where you can volunteer. Contact them if you are interested.
That being said, happy turtle watching!