News - Ma' Daerah
Helping to protect turtles
by K. SUTHAKAR-Thestar
VISITORS converged at the normally quiet Ma’Daerah Turtle Sanctuary in Kerteh for a good cause on April Fool’s Day.
They were taking part in the annual beach clean-up in preparation for the turtle-nesting season from this month to October.
About 400 people, including children, removed debris and rubbish washed onto the beach under the blazing sun from 8.30am till noon.
Ma’Daerah, the second turtle sanctuary in Terengganu, is the nesting ground for green turtles.
Among the volunteers present were staff of BP Malaysia, BP Petronas Acetyls, WWF Malaysia, students of SM Sains Dungun and 21 National Service trainees from Bakau Resort Camp in Kerteh.
Also present were personnel from the Fire and Rescue Department and workers from Kemaman Municipal Council.
The council provided lorries for the garbage to be carted away.
Filipinos Gina De Vera, 31, a plant specialist and Maria Lourdes Macatual, 39, an operations engineer, both attached to Polyethylene Malaysia Sdn Bhd, said it was an interesting experience.
Achuthan Menon, 41, an engineer with BP Petronas Acetyls came with his wife A. Mallika, 29, and their children Hariharan Menon, seven, and Aparna Menon, six, for the second time.
“We brought our children along to instil in them the importance of protecting turtles which are endangered,” said Achuthan.
Ma’Daerah Turtle Sanctuary working committee member Noraini Hashim said they would soon draw up an eco-tourism masterplan for the area.
Members of the committee comprise the Fisheries Department, BP Asia Pacific (M) Sdn Bhd, BP Petronas Acetyls Sdn Bhd and WWF Malaysia.
Noraini, who is programmme adviser (corporate affairs) at BP Malaysia Sdn Bhd, said it would take a year to prepare the plan.
“We have heard that the state exco has gazetted Ma’Daerah as a turtle sanctuary but we do not know yet whether it includes the coastal vegetation and the Bukit Labohan forest,” she said.
The hilly forest needs to be protected as it shields the beach from the bright lights of the nearby petrochemical industries, Noraini said.
“We are worried they might go in the opposite direction due to the lure of the lights,” she added.
She said the committee met periodically to develop, implement and monitor all conservation and management programmes in Ma’Daerah.
They will present their plans for endorsement by the steering committee, which includes representatives of the Fisheries Department, state Economic Planning Unit and Dungun/Kemaman Fisheries Association.
The steering committee focuses on better protection of turtle eggs, improving conservation awareness among community members and strengthening ties between researchers and administrators.
Turtle eggs sold near sanctuary
KUALA TERENGGANU: “It was the most heartbreaking sight.”
This was how tourist Elaine Cheh, 26, felt after seeing turtle eggs being sold at a petrol kiosk convenience store in the once-famed leatherback haven of Rantau Abang last week.
The marketing executive from Kuala Lumpur said the eggs were packed in plastic bags and hung loosely on the shelves next to items such as biscuits and toys.
Cheh, who complained via e-mail to The Star, said she was shocked that the eggs of the endangered species were being sold at the “doorstep” of the Rantau Abang turtle sanctuary.
“Five eggs were sold for RM11 and 10 eggs for RM22,” said Cheh, who, together with friends, stayed two days in a chalet in Rantau Abang, hoping to see turtles nesting.
“It was a disappointment as we did not see any turtles. We only saw turtle eggs sold in plastic bags,” she said.
Cheh said the petrol kiosk was located about 500m from the Turtle and Marine Ecosystem Centre (Tumec) – a body which oversees the conservation of marine species.
Turtle scientist Prof Chan Eng Heng believed that eggs of the green turtle could have come from Rantau Abang.
“Although the sale of turtle eggs, except for those of the leatherbacks, are allowed, it is illegal to collect eggs from turtle sanctuaries,” she said.
Tumec head Kamaruddin Ibrahim could not be reached for comment.
In a related matter, Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh has for the first time shown interest in curbing the sale of turtle eggs.
He has asked for a report from the Wildlife and Fisheries department as well as Kolej Universiti Sains dan Teknologi Malaysia.“I want to know how to protect the eggs,” he told newsmen after releasing 80 river terrapin hatchlings into Sungai Dungun on Tuesday.
In a little known haven in Terengganu, with 1.7 km of beach and 70 hectares of flat sandy plains is Ma’ Daerah.