Turtle Conservation in Borneo
Sea Turtles are truly beautiful creatures. In Malaysia, Green turtles can often be found resting and swimming amongst thriving corals, and occasionally hawksbill turtles can be spotted in similar environments. Green sea turtles can weigh up to 700lbs, making them some of the biggest turtles in the world. Two other species have been found nesting on Malaysian shores: the olive-ridley turtle and the leatherback turtle.
Mating occurs annually in some species of turtles such as the hawksbill, and every 2-3 years for others, such as the green turtle. In many species, females often revisit the beaches where they were hatched to lay their eggs. They can lay up to 2oo eggs in small pits they create with their powerful flippers. They then cover the pit and return to the sea, leaving the eggs to hatch after around two months. The newborns will then have to fend for themselves against the un-favorable odds. The most dangerous time of a young turtle’s life is when it leaves the safety of the nest to reach the sea. This journey usually takes place at night, to increase their chances of survival. However, multiple predators, including crabs and flocks of gulls, prey on the hatchlings during the short scamper and as they swim near the shore. Newly hatched turtles have a mere 3% chance of eventually making it to adulthood.
The green and olive ridley turtles are endangered while the hawksbill and leatherback turtles are critically endangered species. Despite this, they are still killed for their meat and eggs. Turtle eggs are considered a delicacy by some local communities in South East Asia, and fetch a high price on the black market. Turtle meat is consumed in parts of Indonesia and neighbouring countries. Turtle populations are further reduced by irresponsible human encroachment on turtle nesting grounds, boat propeller accidents and fish-net caused drowning.
While the situation for turtles seems bleak, ongoing conservation efforts are allowing local turtle populations in some areas to thrive.
At Sipadan Island – one of the worlds best dive sites – resorts were relocated to neighbouring islands of Mabul and Kapalai in 2005. Diving at the site also became regulated. These efforts were made in an attempt to allow turtles and other diverse sea life minimum disruption, which is expected to lead to a spike in the numbers of local species in the coming years.
At Selingan Island, visitors are invited to participate in the conservation effort. Visit the turtle hatchery, learn about their life-cycles and witness the mother turtle laying her eggs on the sandy beach. Later, release baby turtles onto the beach and watch as they make their way out into the open sea. Also known as Turtle Island, Selingan has been instrumental in turtle conservation since 1966.
Thanks to the conservation efforts in places like Sipadan Island and Selingan Island, both visitors and localcommunities are becoming more aware about the imminent threats to turtle populations.
If you want to be part of the turtle conservation movement and learn more about these ancient creatures, visit Selingan Island. For the chance to dive in and see turtles in their natural habitat, take a trip to the stunning Sipadan Mabul Resort.