Sunday, 26 September 2010

Rantau Abang, The Turtle Sanctuary

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At the first glimpse, Rantau Abang is just another small village with lovely beaches in Terengganu. While itself a very small village, Rantau Abang is most famed for being the landing and nesting sites of the Pacific Giant leatherback turtles. For decades, these beautiful marine reptiles come to the Rantau Abang shores biannually to lay eggs between the months of April and September. These enormous turtles can grow up to 2.5m long and sometimes weigh more than 375kg. It is a great privilege as Rantau Abang is one of only six places in the world visited by these turtles.

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However, unfortunately the number of sea turtles that lay their eggs has severely decreased in recent years. Overall, there is a significant fall in their population. The leatherback turtles are in serious, and critical danger of being forever lost from Rantau Abang. 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 (it was 10,000 eduring the 1950s). This is very devastating and sad indeed.

The biggest factor for the decline has been local poachers who take the turtle eggs and sell them in local markets as a local delicacy. The Turtle and Marine Ecosystem Centre has been set up in Rantau Abang to prevent further damage and to spearhead conservation efforts. I hope the future generation will not be denied for the pleasure to lie quietly in wait from midnight to dawn to watch these beautiful come ashore to lay their eggs. The turtles, lumbering slowly up the white sandy beaches to lay eggs, might be a sight that will not be seen by our kids if we don't do something right now.

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