By Isabelle Lai
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia's marine turtle population is set to be given an added conservation boost with the approval of a US$20,000 (RM61,000) Taiwanese grant to Sabah-based Marine Research Foundation (MRF).
Its executive director Dr Nicolas J. Pilcher said his work, which focused on laparoscopy studies, played a critical role in determining accurate long-term conservation methods.
He said the studies, conducted at sea, helped researchers determine the sex of the turtles, including its level of maturity.
“This is important because the studies will tell us about the general population and its growth,” he said at a press conference at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office yesterday.
Dr Pilcher explained that the laparoscopy studies he had conducted since 2006 had helped to improve an imbalanced turtle population at Mantanani, Sabah, which had an alarming 93% female population.
He said this was because sea turtle hatcheries had cut down all the trees in the area where the eggs were laid, leading to uniform sand temperatures.
“The sex of the turtles depends on the temperature of the sand, with warm eggs resulting in females while cool eggs produce male turtles. So, all we ended up doing was releasing female turtles into the ocean for 20 years,” he said, adding that this posed a dangerous long-term impact.
Dr Pilcher said that today, the female population was around 80%, adding that there was still much more work to be done in raising awareness about proper conservation efforts.
He said, however, that Malaysia was the most advanced country in South-East Asia in terms of its turtle conservation work and praised the Fisheries Department for its policies.
Dr Pilcher received the cheque from Taipei Economic and Cultural Office Malaysia representative Lo Yu-Chung.
Lo said the project would involve a collaboration between MRF and the Institute of Marine Biology of the National Taiwan Ocean University.