PUPILS of SK Mangkok in Setiu, Terengganu, turned up in large numbers at the school for a good cause on National Day.
They wore T-shirts bearing the words Sayangilah Tuntung Kita, Warisan Setiu, Khazanah Terengganu or Love our river terrapins; it is the heritage of Setiu and the wealth of Terengganu.
The school played host to Kolej Universiti Sains dan Teknologi Malaysia (Kustem), Terrapin Independence Day programme, which was launched on Aug 31.
For the first time, Kustem released 150, year-old terrapins into the river, which was once famous for the species.
The eggs, which were bought from egg collectors, were hatched in the college university campus at Mengabang Telipot near Kuala Terengganu.
The school is the appropriate choice as it is located only 500m from the river and many pupils stay along the riverbank.
?We want to educate the children and the public on the importance of conserving the species.
?This is because there has been a drastic drop in the number of terrapin nesting on the riverbank,? said turtle scientist Prof Chan Eng Heng of Kustem.
Only 30 clutches of eggs were found deposited along the riverbank in 2004 compared to 40 in 2003, she said.
Each of the ?Independence Day? terrapins has a RM20 microchip inserted in the right hind leg for identification.
The technology is courtesy of Cleaveland Metropark Zoo in Ohio, the United States, which donated 550 microchips and a scanner worth RM17,100 to Kustem.
Chan said the technology is useful in identifying the terrapins that are poached and smuggled out of the country.
She said microchips are being used to tag pet animals in the United States and other countries.
Members of Buddhist groups releasing the terrapins into the river.
In his speech, school headmaster Mohd Latif urged the school?s 127 pupils and 16 staff to play their role in protecting nature.
Later, a group of 15 pupils clad in eye- catching costume staged a boria dance on the importance of saving the terrapins.
Some pupils also received prizes for winning drawing and colouring contests as well as essay and poem writing on the subject.
At the function, Chan presented hampers to 21 egg collectors in appreciation of their services. Some also received plaques.
The group has been helping Kustem to buy eggs from villagers for its Terrapin Research and Rehabilitation project.
Also present at the function were two busloads of Buddhists from the Persatuan Penganut Agama Buddha Amitabha Huayan who came all the way from Selangor.
Also there were eight members from the Malaysia Mahayana Buddhist Association and 32 members from the Terengganu Chung Ling Alumni Association.
Pupils staging a boria dance to spread awareness on the importance of conserving river terrapins.
All of them wore T-shirts printed with Hari Kemerdekaan Tuntung 31 Ogos (Terrapin Independence Day, August 31).
The groups were invited as they sponsored the terrapins for the ?release of life? ceremony.
The Amitabha Huayan group sang Buddhist hymns as everyone took turns to release the terrapins.
State Economic Planning Unit assistant director Wan Musa Wan Muda released the heaviest terrapin - weighing 1.02kg with a miniature Jalur Gemilang on it to denote the significance of the event.
However, the flag was removed before the terrapin could dive into the river.
The public is invited to take part in the terrapin adoption programme.
They can contribute RM150 to sponsor a terrapin for a year, RM250 for two years and RM350 for three years.
For more details on the programme, visit www.kustem.edu.my/ctrec or call Chan at 09-668 3251.
Alternatively, e-mail her at [email protected]
This article can be found at thestar.com.my.