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Malaysia to release thousands of hawksbill turtles

 

Wed Jul 4, 11:43 PM ET

About 30,000 hawksbill turtles are expected to be released into the sea this year from a conservation programme that collected eggs along the coast of Malacca state, a report said Thursday.

“Last year, a total of 24,800 turtles were set free and this year we expect to free about 30,000,”, said Sukarno Wagiman, head of resources rehabilitation at the Fisheries Department.

“We started releasing the turtles in stages from April,” he was quoted as saying in The Star.

About 40 percent of the eggs were found on Upeh Island, off the Malacca coast.

The state government is taking back the island — which was sold to national utility company Tenaga Nasional in 2003 — to turn it into a research and management centre for the turtles.

“The government wants to protect the island to help preserve the hawksbill turtles,” Malacca chief minister Mohamad Ali Rustam said.

Separately, the paper also reported that leatherback turtles — the most endangered of Malaysia’s turtles — have not nested in the eastern state of Terengganu so far this year.

“We are just keeping our fingers crossed, hoping that the reptiles will visit us as the nesting season is up to September,” said Kamaruddin Ibrahim from the Turtle and Marine Ecosystem Centre.

There were five nestings last year but none of the eggs hatched, he added.

Leatherback turtles are the largest turtles in the world and frequently nested in Teregganu in the 1960s but now the sighting of even one turtle is rare.

The turtles were a big draw for tourists who came to the state — famed for its exotic islands and coastline — to watch the egg-laying as well as the emergence of hatchlings.

Turtles are hunted in Malaysia for their meat and shell, but many die after getting entangled in fishing nets in open seas.

The World Conservation Union lists the hawksbill turtle and the leatherback turtle as critically endangered.

 

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