By By Maizatul Ranai
Next month is the busiest hatching period for the hawksbill turtle eggs. This means long shifts and extra work for a group of experts in Glory Beach Resort in Port Dickson, as they keep a close watch on the eggs stored in its protected hatchery.
The hatchery, which has been operating for three years, is a breeding ground for hawksbill and green turtles, species which certainly need a helping hand.
While the establishment of the hatchery is aimed at tackling the alarming decline in the country's sea turtle population, it also allows some Port Dickson folk to earn instant cash.
Eggs are collected along the sandy beach and sold to the hatchery at RM2 to RM3 each. The hotel has been receiving up to 700 to 800 eggs on a monthly basis, thanks to elderly couples who pass by for a morning walk, concerned hotel guests consisting of tourists and locals alike, as well as schoolchildren who make collecting eggs a fun routine to meet their hankerings for luxury ice-creams.
After all, it is not about giving and claiming rewards for a deed that matters, but tenacious conservation efforts from both sides which deserve accolades.
Being the only recognised body in Negri Sembilan to be given the mandate to manage and rehabilitate turtles in the country, Glory Beach Resort initiated the 20ft by 8ft hatchery turtle hatchery centre in September 2010.
As of today, the hotel has been making a tremendous achievement, with a 74 per cent hatching rate while 3,500 hawksbill turtles have been successfully released into the sea.
Apart from the role of residents and guests in rescuing the eggs from poachers, the centre has also bought 3,000 turtle eggs from Malacca yearly.
Turtle conservation used to create headlines and gripped the public years ago. Of late, however, people have largely been ignorant and the issue seems to be swept under the rug.
The path to conservation was then fraught with the open selling and consumption of turtle eggs, the use of fishing gear which hurt the vulnerable creatures and never-ending issues of people littering on nesting beaches and polluting the turtles' habitat.
Many people have done all the aforementioned and more, without a twinge of guilt, while environmentalists are going all-out for survival of the species.
While walking on the beach of Tanjung Gemuk last week, in hopes that I could contribute to be part of the doers in the cause, I was greeted by an elderly man in his 60s.
Speaking in thick Negri Sembilan dialect, he rambled about picnic litter before touching on how the ancient reptile is on the brink of extinction, before I could even ask.
According to him, one could see or hear turtles coming up for air in the waters off Port Dickson during the 1980s.
"Sekarang ponyu pun dah merajuk, tompek kotor bonar!" he said. (Now even the turtles refused to come up as the beach is dirty and filled with trash)
He said the feeling of seeing and hearing the splash of water and turtles gulping air while they dove back into the sea was priceless and often gave him goose bumps.
"Now, you try and ask the kids if they know how many types of turtles are there. I bet they could memorise eccentric car names or the recently-launched gadgets much better," he said with a smirk.
I found that to be true.
It is high time the Federal Government banned the sale of turtle eggs for consumption. Sold at RM4 each, they are expensive and very high in cholesterol.
Eating the eggs to me is akin to an act of treason, next to using fishing gear which are especially dangerous for baby turtles.
There should also be more conservation funds so that the responsible parties could employ a very high-technology approach in the effort, such as the installation of tracking devices on baby turtles to monitor their movements in the ocean.
It all boils down to regeneration efforts, by a combination of science, patience and humanity which is being adopted by Glory Beach Resort.
It is a commendable, timely move that will potentially bring about a positive impact.
Turtles are the kind of animals that need extra care. While animals such as cats and dogs can lick their wounds to clean them out, turtles are unable to do that, even for a cut flipper.
We want to give our children an up-close encounter with the turtles, not only by recognising the creatures through their gadgets.