Villagers aid turtle conservation efforts

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KEMAMAN: For conservationists, putting an end to the consumption of turtle or terrapin eggs is an uphill, if not a never-ending, battle.
So the sight of villagers along Sungai Kemaman, Terengganu, helping in the research and conservation of river terrapins is an extraordinary one for Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia co-founder Chen Pelf Nyok.
Previously, to save the endangered species, Chen and other conservationists would buy turtle or terrapin eggs from villagers to save the reptiles from becoming part of the food menu.
“Here, they willingly gave it up to us. This is quite an achievement.
“I was surprised to hear the village head tell me he had always wanted to help with such efforts but didn’t know how,” she told fz.com.Chen said that volunteers from three surrounding villages accompanied her to the river banks every night during the nesting season which falls between February and March, where they helped her collect, weigh and measure over 600 eggs last year.

Excited children helping to transport the river terrapins to the release site.

During this nesting season they collected over 1,400 eggs, which were incubated. Of this, 975 turtles were hatched and released on Oct 13.The interest shown in conserving terrapins offers some hope for the species.
This is especially so in the district where a healthy population of terrapins was recently discovered.
This also bodes well the society’s conservation efforts in Setiu, north of Kuala Terengganu which had been described as “ground zero” for such efforts by the Turtle Survival Alliance, a non-governmental organisation which was set up in 2009.
The alliance had stated that Malaysia was the last stronghold in the world when it came to the conservation of painted and river terrapins due to its significant population, especially in Terengganu.
River terrapins, or batagur affinis, are among the top 25 most endangered turtle species in the world, according to the Turtle Conservation Coalition.

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on Oct 25, 2012.