Adopt a Turtle
23 September 2008
Adopt a Turtle
Malaysia has introduced a new program to its wildlife conservation portfolio – turtle adoption.
The program, run by a local travel agent in conjunction with the Sarawak Tourism Board, is aimed at increasing the public’s awareness of the country’s unique wildlife, while encouraging the growth of ecotourism in the region.
Director of Tourism Malaysia Sydney, Mr Shahrin Mokhtar, says one of the most spectacular features of East Malaysia is its abundance of wildlife.
“Malaysian Borneo is a biodiversity hotspot, where environmental and eco responsibilities heavily influence the way the tourism industry operates there,” Shahrin says.
“Numerous programs have been set up by the Malaysian Government to help conserve the country’s natural heritage, including volunteer programs with orang utans and community projects, and now for the very first time, there is a dedicated volunteer program for turtles.
“This program is tailored to educate nature and animal lovers about the different endangered turtle species in Malaysia, what can and needs to be done to help protect the turtles; as well as giving volunteers the opportunity of a lifetime to be 100 percent hands-on with the conservation exercise.”
The turtle adoption program not only allows volunteers to get “up close and personal” to watch turtles lay their hundreds of eggs, but also allows them to get involved with the process of collecting eggs and measuring them, as well as tagging and releasing baby turtles into the ocean. The less glamorous duties of beach cleaning and patrolling are also part of the program.
“Volunteer programs are fantastic educational tools to get both locals and travellers involved in new and existing conservation projects around the country,” says Shahrin.
“It’s a win-win situation where tourists gain a better understanding of the places they have visited in East Malaysia, while actively contributing directly to the protection of the country’s much treasured wildlife. Most of all, it is an amazing and memorable experience.”
The inaugural program has run for 2008, with the next program scheduled from May – September 2009.
Talang-Talang Besar Isand, one of three islands in the area that falls under The Turtles (Prevention of Disturbance) Rules, 1962, is where the turtle adoption program takes place. A remote island near the western tip of Sarawak, this is an important nesting ground for large numbers of sea turtles during the hatching season between May and September. Strictly controlled by the Sarawak Forestry Corporation for the primary purpose of turtle conservation, access to the island is exclusive to participants of the program.