Malaysia: Beach clean up programme a boon for turtle awareness

Goh Pei Pei New Straits Times 25 Jun 18;

SEMATAN: A beach-clean up programme organised by a local environmental group has been helping to promote awareness about turtle conservation in the islands off the coast of Sarawak.

The latest series in the programme involved 13 youth volunteers from the Sarawak Eco-Warriors who visited Talang-Talang Besar and Talang-Talang Kecil islands near here.

The group departed from the Sematan Jetty and arrived at the turtle nesting ground on the islands after a 20 minute boat ride.

Project manager Celine Tiang said the visit aimed to aid in the conservation of sea turtles. Volunteers were tasked to pick up rubbish from the beach and painted the park rangers’ headquarters.

“Apart from collecting rubbish, we want to inspire, educate and empower the local community about environmental concerns.

“We need to start doing it before we can encourage the locals to follow suit. It is a continuous effort as we don’t believe we can achieve our objective with just one program,” said Tiang.

She said the Sarawak Eco-Warriors have been organising beach clean-ups for over a year.

Recently, the group visited turtle nesting grounds as to expose their members to the current threats faced by sea turtles.

Talang-Talang Besar Island and Talang-Talang Kecil Island are essential nesting grounds for sea turtles in Sarawak.

Sea turtles face numerous threats including entanglement in fishing nets, habitat destruction, water pollution, poaching, predation of eggs by monitor lizards and other wild animals as well as ingestion of marine debris such as plastic bags.

The preservation of nesting grounds on the islands have helped to reduce these threats and provide refuge for the turtles.

According to a park ranger, about 50 turtles come to lay their eggs per night during the peak nesting season. The turtles would come back again if there is no space at that time.

Tiang said the volunteers had a chance to see green turtle hatchlings in the recent programme.

“This is a fresh and rare experiences for most of our volunteers as the islands are not open for public. It has given them a deep insight about how they should really do something to save the environment now,” she said.