Turtle nesting grounds to be gazetted sanctuaries

By Ajitpal Singh and Zarina Abdullah

Four prime turtle nesting grounds in Pulau Perhentian Besar and Kecil will be gazetted in three months’ time as turtle sanctuaries by the State Government to preserve the marine species. The areas to be gazetted on the islands are a 588.37-metre site in Pantai Tanjung Tukas, Pasir Tiga Ruang (631.74m) and Pasir Pinang Seribu (152.86m) in Pulau Perhentian Besar and Pantai Tanjung Guntong (275.74m) in Pulau Perhentian Kecil.

Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said these sites would be gazetted in the hope that the turtle population would increase. “Turtles are the pride of Terengganu. They have been nesting on our beaches for hundreds of years and we should do our best to protect them,” he told reporters at the weekly state executive council meeting at Wisma Darul Iman today.

Only two beaches in Terengganu have been gazetted as turtle sanctuaries. They are a 12ha site in Rantau Abang, Dungun, and a 60ha area in Ma-daerah, Kemaman.

In February, the State Government also classified five beaches on Pulau Redang as turtle egg incubation areas. The sites at Pantai Cagar Hutang, Pantai Mat Kepit, Pantai Mak Simpan, Pantai Pasir Bujang and Pantai Che Keling are to be gazetted as turtle sanctuaries by the end of the year.

Terengganu beaches are the nesting grounds for four of the world’s seven marine turtle species, namely the Leatherback, Green turtle, Hawksbill turtle and Olive Ridley. They are protected under the Fisheries Act 1985.

They are also listed under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), where both Leatherback and Hawksbill turtles are classified as critical. The Olive Ridley and Green turtles are on the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species.

Idris also said State Secretary Datuk Muhatar Abdullah was in charge of a committee tasked with recommending more turtle sanctuary sites.

The State Government is organising a “Save Turtles Nite” in June to raise money for the State Turtle Fund. “We will invite companies such as Esso, Petronas and Shell in the hope they will contribute to the fund,” Idris added.

Meanwhile, Turtle and Marine Eco-system Centre director Dr Kamaruddin Ibrahim said the State had 34 turtle landing areas. “Last year, Pulau Redang recorded the highest number of turtle landings totalling 1,453 times, followed by Geliga in Kemaman (570) and Pulau Perhentian (248).”

Source: The New Straits Times Press (M) Berhad, April 6, 2005