Of the seven species of sea turtles present in the world’s oceans, four of them have primary nesting sites in Malaysia. This puts Malaysia on the front line of effort to preserve these endangered species. These turtles include the Leatherback Turtle, the most unusual and distinctive of all sea turtles, the Green Turtle
, the largest hard-shelled sea turtle, the Hawksbill Turtle
, and the Olive Ridley Turtle
. All four are listed by environmentalists as endangered. Over the years, WWF-Malaysia
has raised awareness on turtle conservation through public programs that involved government agencies, local communities, universities, schools and private stakeholders.
Tragically for Malaysia and the world, there are some who still eat turtle eggs as if these animals were as numerous as chickens, instead of being on the brink of extinction. One of the key messages of all of WWF’s outreach programs is ‘Do not sell, buy or eat turtle eggs’. Recently, in collaboration with WWF-Malaysia, The Business School of Taylor’s University
embarked on the Save the Turtles for Our Children initiative. Cheryl Nicholson, who headed up the project, noted “It is our responsibility to provide students with a more holistic and global education which includes creating awareness of environmental issues and encouraging them to participate and contribute to conservation.”
According to The World Conservation Union (IUCN)
, the five main factors that lead to the extinction of sea turtles are: turtles being caught in fishing equipment, illegal poaching and sale of turtles and eggs due to sustained public demand, encroaching tourist development of coastal nesting sites, the pollution of waterways and beaches, and changes in water currents and temperature due to climate change. WWF-Malaysia focuses its conservation work on large-scale priority areas that encompass a broad range of wildlife and ecological systems. Their goal is to achieve long-term and sustainable conservation impact in the country by conserving, restoring and protecting diversity of species, forests, marine, coastal and freshwater environments.
In Kerteh, Terengganu, WWF-Malaysia has been involved in turtle conservation efforts in Ma'Daerah since the 1980's and achieved a successful hatch rate that averages 81% over the past 5 years. WWF-Malaysia has also set up a community-based organization known as Persatuan Khazanah Rakyat Ma'Daerah (MEKAR)
. Together with MEKAR, several awareness activities have been carried out, such as turtle conservation awareness workshops and road shows, dialogue sessions with fishermen as well as talks in 17 schools in Paka, Kerteh and Kemasik.
Taylor’s Business school campaign involved the sale of T-shirts and an information campaign aimed at raising awareness of the detrimental effects on Malaysia’s tourism industry and its global reputation if the continued decline in turtle population led to the extinction of these distinctive species. Funds are always necessary for preservation projects, and public awareness helps students to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Each T-shirt was sold to students for RM25 and profit from the sale of these T-shirts were donated to WWF-Malaysia’s conservation efforts.