Malaysia: Malacca to gazette Padang Kemunting stretch as turtle sanctuary

KELLY KOH New Straits Times 7 Nov 16;

ALOR GAJAH: The Malacca government is taking a more serious approach in the conservation of turtles with a proposal to gazette the stretch of beach along Padang Kemunting to Air Hitam Darat as a turtle sanctuary.

Tanjung Bidara assemblyman Datuk Md Rawi Mahmud said the proposal would forbid night activities along the 800-metre stretch of beach, following concerns of a dwindling number of turtle landings in the state.

"We are concerned that night activities such as light pollution along the beach would hinder the chances of turtles landing on the beach.

"Paperwork will be forwarded to the State Economic Planning Unit where the proposal would be discussed in the state executive council meeting.

"We do not have a time frame in doing so, but we are committed towards materialising this proposal because we do not want more places which were once turtle landing sites to perish like the one in Rantau Abang, Terengganu," he told reporters at the rangers appreciation day at the Turtle Conservation and Information Centre in Padang Kemunting in Masjid Tanah, here, today.

Rawi stressed on the importance on protecting turtles after the state recorded a decline in the number of turtle landings from 481 in 2013 to 367 landings this year.

The overall turtle landings in the state in 2013 was 481, 2014 (436 landings), 2015 (418 landings) and 367 as of October this year, noting that the peak season for turtle landings is usually between March and September.

State Fisheries Department director Mohd Ghazali A. Manap attributed the decline to the deaths of turtles, saying that for every 1,000 turtles released to the sea, only one adult turtle successfully returned to Malacca beach to lay eggs, according to an international study.

He also did not deny that coastal reclamation was another cause of decline in turtle landings.

Pulau Upeh, which used to be the largest hawksbill turtle nesting ground in Peninsular Malaysia, and the second largest in the country after Sabah's Turtle Island, continues to see a decline in the number of turtle landings from 111 in 2011 to only 13 this year.

The number of turtle landings in Pulau Upeh in 2008 was 108, 2009 (72 landings), 2010 (83 landings), 2011 (111 landings), 2012 (36 landings), 2013 (51 landings), 2014 (45 landings) and 15 last year.

Ghazali added that the percentage of turtle hatching success also declined from 57.87 per cent last year to 39.71 per cent this year.

"But we may be able to catch up as there are another 4,549 turtle eggs in incubation to be hatched in 90 days' time to achieve our target of 80 percent hatching success under National Plan of Action for Conservation and Management of Sea Turtles," he said.

On cases of stolen turtle eggs, he said the department had identified between two to three culprits involved in the activity and the department is working closely with the police to arrest them.

Between April and September this year, turtle eggs from 105 nests (or 28 percent) were stolen out of the number of turtle eggs from 379 nests, with the highest turtle eggs theft cases recorded in Padang Kemunting.