Conservation Program Protecting Endangered Sea Turtles

Marine turtles play an important role in our oceans’ ecosystems by maintaining healthy seagrass beds and coral reefs. Green turtles graze seagrass beds, which in turn, increase the productivity of ecosystems. Hawksbills turtles forage on variety of marine sponges and this changes the species composition and distribution of sponges in the coral reef ecosystem.

Sadly, the number of marine turtles in most places has plummeted and some species are on the brink of extinction. They are threatened by the loss of nesting and feeding habitats, excessive egg-collection, fishery-related mortality (for example, accidental mortality in the nets and long-lines of fishing fleets), pollution, and coastal development.

On 1 August 1966, the first turtle hatchery in Malaysia was established on Selingan, funded entirely by the Sabah state government. Turtle hatcheries on the remaining two islands followed shortly after. In 1972, Selingan, Bakkungan Kechil and Gulisan were designated as a Game and Bird Sanctuary. In 1977, this status was upgraded to that of a Marine Park. Permanent park staff monitor the turtles, protect the hatcheries and tag the turtles for research purposes. There are now 11 designated conservation areas across Malaysia, with conservation programs open to volunteers.

We can be a turtle guardian by supporting and engaging with marine turtle conservation projects, avoiding single-use plastic such as straws, plastic utensils, and plastic bags, as well as increasing our knowledge and awareness on the importance of reducing human impacts to the ocean.

The responsibility of saving these magnificent marine reptiles lie in our hands. Everyone holds a duty in the future of our marine life and can potentially be a turtle guardian.

Destination Asia Malaysia is currently working towards achieving Travelife certification, an internationally recognized standard of sustainable practice. One of the criteria we are focusing on is the effective planning of travel products that do not impact the environment in a negative manner. Conservation programs such as the ones discussed here are reviewed by the team in Malaysia to ensure they meet the sustainability standards we now benchmark ourselves against.

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