DONATION ....Senior lecturer Dr Pushpa M Palaniappan of University Malaysia Sabah’s Marine Borneo Institute receiving RM 5000 cash donation from “Uncle Chong Rsort” to fund the University’s turtle conservation effort.
By : M. IZHAM B. HASHIM
THE MARINE Borneo Institute (BMRI) of University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) is conducting a sea-turtle tagging project to mark World Turtle Day 2013, which begins on May 22 to May 24.
In a drive to raise awareness and enhance education on marine conservation, the three-day event will be open to local and international volunteers to capture, photograph, measure and tag resident turtles found in the waters near renowned dive sites at Sipadan and Kapalai Island.
BMRI senior lecturer Dr Pushpa M Palaniappan said that a 2011 survey shows that the sea turtles, once critically endangered, are making a strong comeback, and are spawning in record numbers in Sabah. She said that a total of 661 sea turtles were successfully caught and tagged during a recent study in Sipadan and Mabul.
“The two-kilometre reef at Mabul is presently supporting over 140 turtles, which is a very encouraging sign,” she told reporters during the press conference at UMS.
However, despite the sharp increase of turtles arriving on Sabah’s shores, their post-nesting migration patterns are still not known.
“The long-term project will supply important data to document annual growth rates, nesting behaviours, map out migratory patterns and post-nesting movements, which will be useful for future turtle conservation efforts,” Dr Pushpa M Palaniappan said.
The World Turtles Day 2013 will be officiated by Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, Datuk Masidi Manjun.
The event, according to BMRI Director Prof. Dr Saleem Mustafa, will complement a recently concluded study by Dr Pushpa Palaniappan’s research team on the resident sea turtle population in Sipadan and Mabul Islands, specially funded by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.
Situated at what is known as Uncle Chang’s Resort at Mabul, the event marking the World Turtles Day will also be open to hotel guests and primary school pupils to give them a hands-on experience of sea-turtle research and the marine conservation efforts.
“The project is a great way to get people excited and inspired towards protecting the environment,” Dr Saleem told reporters.
The World Turtle Day will be formally included in the Sabah Tourism Calendar to make both domestic and international tourists aware of this particular part of the state’s conseration programme.
“From our experience, promoting public awareness and education is more successful than enforcement, because it helps inspire a deeper appreciation of our marine environment and encourage people to get involved,” he said.
Despite the state’s conservation efforts the turtles still face many threats to their survival, such as threats from egg poachers and pollution, especially in the form of plastic bags which some ingest , and they can also get entangled in fishing nets and drown. (Insight Sabah)