Over 13 million turtle hatchlings released from Sabah islands

New Straits Times 5 Dec 11;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Parks has released more than 13 million turtle hatchlings into the sea from the Turtle Islands National Park (TINP) in the last 21 years.

The park, located within Turtle Islands some 40km north of Sandakan, covers an area of 17.4 square kilometres.

Administered by Sabah Parks, it is noted for its green turtles and hawksbill turtles which lay their eggs on the beaches of the islands.

Sabah Parks director Paul Basintal said only one out of a thousand turtles released into the wild would survive.

"That is why we need to release as many turtles as possible. Recently, researchers found a considerable number of juvenile turtles in Mantanani Island (some 80km northeast of Kota Kinabalu).

"Based on studies, we found that the juvenile turtles in Mantanani Island are actually the hatchlings we released from TINP," he said at the Turtle Conservation Campaign held at Suria Sabah Mall here yesterday.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Ellron Angin officiated at the campaign aimed at promoting public awareness of the importance of turtle conservation.

In the past 21 years, Sabah Parks recorded 218,305 turtle nests at the hatcheries in TINP. During peak season, the number of turtle landings can reach up to 50 a night.

As of last year, Sabah Parks had marked 54,904 juvenile turtles since the turtle tagging programme was introduced in 1970s. From the tagging, it was found that these turtles have travelled to Palau in the Pacific Ocean and Kai Kecil Island of Indonesia, about 2,400km off Turtle Islands.

To a question on turtle egg poaching, Angin said most turtle eggs sold were from neighbouring countries.

"In Sabah, it is under control... we are very strict about this as turtle egg poaching is against the law under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997."

TINP consists of three islands namely Selingaan, Bakkungan Kechil and Gulisaan. The Turtle Islands consist of 10 islands, seven of which belong to the Municipality of Turtle Islands, Tawi-Tawi, the Philippines. Bernama