Turtle deaths in Terengganu spark alarm
The Star Online
Monday January 29, 2007
By R.S.N. MURALI
KUALA TERENGGANU: Marine conservationists and the authorities are baffled and upset over the spate of turtle deaths here.
In just four days, two rare giant terrapins and a greenback turtle have been found dead with wounds on their bodies. The carcasses of the freshwater terrapins were found at separate spots along the Terengganu River bank within days of each other.
The first was found at Pantai Tok Jembal on Thursday and the second one was discovered at Mengabang Telipot yesterday. Both, measuring between 1m and 1.3m in length, were identified as the Asian Giant Soft-Shelled Terrapin, scientifically known as Pelochelys cantorii.
Visible wounds were found, indicating that they could have been injured by fishermen?s trawl nets. The wounded terrapins were believed to have died after being stranded on the riverbank.
In Kampung Merang, a 1.2m-long greenback turtle was also found dead on the beach yesterday by villagers, with wounds on its body.
State Agriculture and Regional Development Committee deputy chairman Rozi Mamat said he wanted the marine agencies to explain why the turtles died.
Universiti Malaysia Terengganu?s turtle research and rehabilitation scientist Prof Chan Eng Heng said she was very upset and distressed over the deaths.
We want to know the best way to ensure the survival of these reptiles, she said.
She added that in November, another Asian Giant Soft-Shelled Terrapin, weighing about 40kg, was found dead near Pulau Kambing here by state Marine Park Unit workers. The cause of death has yet to be ascertained.
She described the terrapin as a rare species, last discovered in Cambodia.
I was excited when first told about the species that was found in the Terengganu River. Unfortunately, we have yet to stumble on one that is alive, she said, adding that the terrapin found at Mengabang Telipot had been brought back to the university for an autopsy.
Prof Chan said the terrapins were mostly found in freshwater but would travel to the beach to lay their eggs.