Wednesday, September 19

Talkings About Turtles,Do You Want To Know More About Them...

Talking About Turtles
Sea Turtle Conservation in Malaysia
Four species of sea turtles in the world can be found nesting on Malaysian shores ;
• the olive-ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea),
• the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata),
• the green turtle (Chelonia mydas)
• and the leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)

All of these are currently listed as endangered species in the world. Lets find out us what we need to know to conserve them.

Sea turtles are large, air-breathing reptiles that can be found in tropical and subtropical seas throughout the world. Their shells consist of an upper part (or carapace) and a lower part (or plastron). All sea turtles, except the leatherbacks, are covered in hard scales known as scutes, and the number and arrangement of these scutes can be used to determine the species. Different species of sea turtles eat different kinds of food. Instead of teeth, they have modified 'beaks' suited to their particular diet. They do not have visible ears but have eardrums covered by skin. Sea turtles hear best at low frequencies, and their sense of smell is excellent. Sea turtles also have good underwater vision even though they are nearsighted out of water.

Sea turtles come in many different sizes, shapes and colours but all have streamlined bodies and large flippers, which make them adapted to live in the ocean although sea turtles maintain close ties to land. While male sea turtles rarely return to land after crawling into the sea as hatchlings, most females return to nest on the beach where they were born (natal beach) to lay their eggs in the sand. Different species of sea turtle eats, sleeps, mates and swims in distinctly different areas but sometimes their habitats overlap.

Sea Turtles of Malaysia
Seven turtle species have been recognised living in the world's oceans, which are grouped into six genera. Out of this number, four species can be found nesting on Malaysian shores:the olive-ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea),the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) ,and the leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea).Unfortunately, these species are currently being listed on the WWF List as endangered species.

Why are Sea Turtles Declining?
Sea turtles have long played a vital role in the folklore of many world cultures, but this has not stopped them from being exploited by humans for food and income. The earliest known sea turtle fossils are about 150 million years old. However, in the past 100 years increased demand for turtle meat, eggs, skin and shells has lead to a rapid decline in their populations.
Sea turtles are practically exposed to threats at all stages in their life-cycle. In nature, sea turtles nests are predated by monitor lizards, crabs and ants. Once they emerge, hatchlings make bite-sized meals for birds, crabs and a host of predators in the ocean. After reaching adulthood, sea turtles are relatively immune to predation, except for the occasional shark attack. However, it is the pressure of human activities that is threatening the survival of sea turtle around the world. Moreover, the impact of these threats is multiplied by their slow growth and long maturation period.

The X-Factor Towards Turtles Extinction..

Natural Threats
In nature, sea turtles face a host of life and death obstacles to their survival. Predators such as raccoons, crabs and ants raid eggs and hatchlings still in the nest. Once they emerge, hatchlings make bite-sized meals for birds, crabs and a host of predators in the ocean. After reaching adulthood, sea turtles are relatively immune to predation, except for the occasional shark attack. These natural threats, however, are not the reasons sea turtle populations have plummeted toward extinction. To understand what really threatens sea turtle survival, we must look at the actions of humans.

Human-Caused Threats

In many cultures around the world, people still harvest sea turtle eggs for consumption. Most countries forbid the taking of eggs, but enforcement is lax, poaching is rampant, and the eggs can often be found for sale in local markets. In these same areas, adult sea turtles are harvested for their meat. Turtle products, such as jewelry made from hawksbill shells, also create a direct threat to sea turtles.
Lack of information about sea turtles leads humans to unwittingly support the international trade in these endangered species. Buying and selling turtle products within is strictly prohibited by international law, but turtle shell jewelry and souvenirs are the most frequent contraband seized by customs officials from tourists returning from the over the world. Indirect threats are harder to quantify, but they are likely causing the greatest harm to sea turtle survival.

Artificial Lighting
Turtles typically seek dark and undisturbed beaches for nesting. Nesting turtles often avoid lighted areas; therefore strong light and noise from beachfront structures and coastal residents as well as uncontrolled use of torchlight and flash photography by beach visitors can disrupt nesting activity. This too may disturb other nearby turtles from landing or nesting successfully. Also, artificial light can disorientate hatchlings during their seaward crawl and may lead them to wander inland, where they often die of dehydration and predation.
Beach Activities
Human use of nesting beaches can result in negative impacts to nesting turtles, incubating egg clutches and hatchlings. The most serious threat caused by increased human presence on the beach is the disturbance to nesting females. Night-time human activity can prevent sea turtles from emerging on the beach or even cause females to stop nesting and return to the ocean.
Beach Furniture and other recreational equipment (e.g., cabanas, umbrellas, hobie cats, canoes, small boats and beach cycles) can reduce nesting success and increase false crawls on nesting beaches. There is also increasing documentation of nesting females becoming entrapped in beach furniture.

Beach Driving, either at night or during the daytime, can negatively impact sea turtles. Night time driving can disturb nesting females, disorient emerging hatchlings, and crush hatchlings attempting to reach the ocean. Tire ruts left by vehicles can extend the time it takes a hatchling to reach the ocean and increase their chance of being caught by a predator. Driving during the day can cause sand compaction above nests resulting in lower nest success. Additionally, beach driving contributes to erosion, especially during high tides or on narrow beaches

Coastal development

Beachfront development and construction of recreational facilities, walkways and barriers to prevent beach erosion can hinder nesting. Structures such as sea walls and sandbags that are installed in an attempt to protect beachfront property from erosion may block female turtles from reaching suitable nesting habitat. Besides that, removal or replacing of sand or local vegetation cover can alter beach condition that is suitable for nesting. Also, if this activity persists during nesting season, nests may be buried far under the surface or run over by heavy machineries.

Turtle Egg Harvest
In their lifetime, an adult female turtle can produce thousands of eggs. Each female lays hundreds of egg per nesting season and return to nest only after three to four years. Therefore, the high number of eggs laid per clutch per season is to make up for the high levels of hatchling and juvenile mortalities before reaching adulthood. In Malaysia, turtle eggs are still harvested commercially. This practise of collecting turtle eggs for sale and consumption can seriously threaten turtle populations. Turtle eggs can be ten times more expensive than chicken eggs although their nutritional properties are comparable. Any medicinal property claimed in turtle eggs has never been scientifically confirmed.

Ingestion of Debris & Plastic
Thousands of sea turtles are affected to an unknown, but potentially significant degree, die from eating or becoming entangled in nondegradable debris each year, including steel and monofilament line, packing bands, balloons, pellets, bottles, vinyl films, tar balls, and Styrofoam, synthetic and natural rope, plastic onion sacks and discarded plastic netting materials. Monofilament line appears to be the principal source of entanglement for sea turtles. Trash, particularly plastic bags thrown overboard from boats or dumped near beaches and swept out to sea, is eaten by turtles and becomes a deadly meal. Leatherbacks especially, cannot distinguish between floating jellyfish — a main component of their diet — and floating plastic bags.

Upon emergence, hatchlings frantically swim to offshore waters, launching their pelagic life searching for edible floating debris or whatever food they can find that accumulate along drift lines. Unfortunately, these drift lines also accumulate non-degradable human litter that is often dumped into the sea. Therefore, it is important that garbage is disposed of properly and not thrown into the sea or littered on the beach, as tide will carry the rubbish out to sea.

Sea Pollution
Pollution can have serious impacts on both sea turtles and particularly on the food they eat. New research suggests that a disease now killing many sea turtles (fibropapillomas) may be linked to pollution in the oceans and in nearshore waters. When pollution kills aquatic plant and animal life, it also takes away the food sea turtles eat. Oil spills, urban runoff of chemicals, fertilizers and petroleum all contribute to water pollution. Besides that, weathered oil slicks form tarballs, which may float on the sea surface for months or years, and are often mistaken by sea turtles for food

Commercial Fishing
The waters of South China Sea are a major habitat for turtles, but are also the main fishing grounds in Malaysia. Each year, during sea turtle migration across the open ocean between their feeding and nesting grounds, many become entangled in fishing nets and drown. Sea turtles are vulnerable to incidental capture in fishing gears. Globally, shrimp trawling probably responsible for the incidental death of more juvenile and adult sea turtles than any other source.

Coastal Armoring
Coastal armoring includes structures such as sea walls, rock revetments and sandbags that are installed in an attempt to protect beachfront property from erosion. These structures often block female turtles from reaching suitable nesting habitat and accelerate erosion down the beach. Armoring is especially problematic along the beach that near to big town, where beach development is occurring in the very places where sea turtles come to nest

Beach Nourishment & Dredging

Beach nourishment consists of pumping, trucking or otherwise depositing sand on a beach to replace what has been lost to erosion. While beach nourishment is often preferable to armoring, it can negatively impact sea turtles if the sand is too compacted for turtles to nest in or if the sand imported is drastically different from native beach sediments, thereby potentially affecting nest-site selection, digging behavior, incubation temperature and the moisture content of nests. If renourishment is allowed to proceed during nesting season, nests can also be buried far beneath the surface or run over by heavy machinery.

Although these threats to sea turtles and destruction of their habitats seem almost too big to overcome, there are many things within our control that can be changed. Greater public awareness and support for sea turtle conservation is the first priority. By learning more about sea turtles and the threats they face, you can help by alerting decision-makers when various issues need to be addressed.

The Leatherback Turtle Crisis in Rantau Abang.
The beaches of Rantau Abang, located in the state of Terengganu on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, are famed for being the landing sites of the Pacific Giant leatherback turtles. For decades, these marine reptiles come to the Rantau Abang shores biannually to lay eggs between the months of April and September. However, the leatherback turtles are in danger of being forever lost from Rantau Abang due to a significant fall in their population. According to the Department of Fisheries statistics the leatherback population nesting on Malaysian shores has declined to merely 2% of the actual number that arrived 50 years ago.

One primary factor that contributes to this devastating fact is the presence of humans at their nesting sites. Every landing season, large crowds consist of locals as well as tourists gather at Rantau Abang to witness this unique event. As these beaches are open to the public, it is often difficult to control the number of people present during leatherback nesting. Despite efforts by the government and the mass media to educate the public on turtle landings, there are still groups of people that camp in the area and build bonfires, which disturb the nesting process. Growth of the tourism industry in Rantau Abang also contributes to the decline, as bright lights and loud noises near the beachfront resulting in turtles to shy away.

Besides that, turtle landings in Rantau Abang also catch the attention of many egg poachers. Even with efforts to forbid the collecting of turtle eggs, they are still harvested commercially in some parts of Malaysia and often can be found for sale in local markets. To overcome this threat, an increasing number of turtle sanctuaries are currently being established along the Rantau Abang shores. Turtle eggs laid on the beach are located and replanted by scientists in incubator centres to prevent them from being stolen and eaten. These artificial hatcheries also provide controlled conditions which may help to overcome the problem of uneven sex ratio in the leatherback population, and consequently bring about the recovery of this species in Rantau Abang.

Conservation Actions in Malaysia.
The urgent need to save our sea turtles has been realised long ago. In Malaysia, turtle conservation measures were introduced as early as 1927 by the British North Borneo Company in Sabah to protect the Hawksbill turtle species. Current turtle sanctuaries in Malaysia include:

''Release Newly Hatches Baby Sea Turtles To The Sea''

''Cherating Heritages Programme''

A Conservation Programme With Student At Cherating Turtles Sanctuary Centre

The Turtle Islands, Sabah
Located about 40 km off Sandakan, the Turtle Islands Park in Sabah is one of the premier green turtle and hawksbill turtle nesting sites in Malaysia. This sanctuary consists of three main nesting islands - Pulau Selingaan, Pulau Bakkungan Kechil and Pulau Gulisaan, covering an area of 1,740 hectares. In August 1966, the state government funded the establishment of the first turtle hatchery on the largest island, Pulau Selingaan. By 1977, all three islands were successfully converted into a marine park by the state government. Current management of the Turtle Islands is overseen by the Department of Fisheries in Sabah.

Ma' Daerah, Terengganu
Located in Terengganu, this turtle and terrapin sanctuary was established in June 1999. This project was undertaken through a partnership between the Department of Fisheries, BP Amoco and WWF Malaysia. Ma' Daerah stations as a turtle hatchery as well as turtle nesting research and management centre. Current conservation projects also include further education of the local communities on sea turtle crisis in Terengganu. Current management of Ma' Daerah is overseen by the Department of Fisheries Malaysia.


nadge said...

Salam sejahtera. Tahniah dan terima kasih atas usaha Anda menyebarkan maklumat tentang penyu / turtles yang semakin pupus. Saya kecewa yang masih terlihat jualan telur penyu di pasar di K.Trg... Semoga penjualannya dihentikan utk meningkatkan bilangan penyu bebas di laut kita.- Nadge Najib Ariffin-

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