Playful turtle attracts visitors to Cherating sanctuary

Playful turtle attracts visitors to Cherating sanctuary

PUCHONG: A green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) that is a little cheeky and likes to splash anyone standing nearby is one of the things that draws people to the Cherating Turtle Conservation and Information Centre (PKPP).

The centre’s chief, Sahrom Abu Samah, said the playful six-year-old is one of the occupants of an interpretation station that also has river terrapins and tortoises so that visitors can identify the difference between the hard-shelled creatures.

“We also have a turtle hatchery and usually it takes 45 to 50 days for a hatchling to be born. After seven days, they are released into the big wide world under the Turtle Awareness Programme.

“At first, they will play in the vicinity of where they were let go, and then when they’ve grown, come back to lay their eggs.

“They can recognise the beach they came from by the texture of the sand and look of the surroundings,” he told Bernama.

To protect hatchlings from predators like eagles and crabs, and give them the best chance of survival, the centre releases them at night.

Sahrom said a sea turtle can grow up to a metre and weigh between 135kg and 170kg.

At the centre, turtles enjoy eating sardines, squid, cabbage and water spinach, with a six-year-old able to consume up to 2kg of food a day.

A sea turtle can lay between 80 and 150 eggs, but logs from the past three years reveal a reduction of the flippered animals returning to nest at a 3.5km stretch of Pantai Chendor, with 147 turtles reported in 2018, 320 in 2017 and 592 in 2016.

On the size of clutches, Sahrom said 12,683 eggs were recorded in 2018 with 62% hatching; 28,177 in 2017 with 73.2 %hatching; and 31,652 in 2016 with 59.6 % hatching.

Until April, 93 turtles have come home and laid 8,450 eggs. The peak laying period is from May to July.

“The fall is because sea turtles are easily affected by the presence of humans which could lead to them turning around and going back to the sea or not laying their eggs because of a noise disturbance.

“Nests also face the risk of being plundered, so staffers have to constantly patrol the coastline for egg collection,” said Sahrom, adding people can help with sea turtle conservation efforts by not eating eggs which would lead to less demand, and of course, looting.