River terrapins return to Dungun

New Straits Times
December 11, 2006

KUALA TERENGGANU: River terrapins here, especially in Dungun, have come crawling back.

And the state deserves a pat on the back for efforts in reviving the population of the terrapins.
This has been achieved despite the project, carried out by the Terengganu Wildlife Protection and Natural Park Department (Perhilitan) and Kolej Universiti Sains Teknologi Malaysia (Kustem), being still in its infant stage.

Kustem Turtle Research and Rehabilitation project leader (Institute of Oceanography) Professor Chan Eng Heng said wild river terrapins were known to nest in countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

A study done by representatives at a regional workshop held last year in Kustem, showed that in recent years no nesting had been registered in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam.

The study also revealed that Cambodia registered four nestings this year, three in 2005 and eight in 2004. Myanmar and Thailand recorded one and three nestings respectively in 2005.

The project, which began in January, registered 44 nestings in Pasir Kumpal and Pasir Tok Chu, located along the Dungun river bank.

From the nests, Kustem and Perhilitan recovered 564 eggs and achieved a 74 per cent average in hatching them.

"The figure is small and I was hoping we could get a 100 nests. But it is a significant figure as it is at a level where we can help restore the population to its glory days," Chan told the New Straits Times.

Chan said that two or three decades ago, a few hundred nests would be seen here, but the number has dwindled with the destruction of the nesting ground due to sand mining.

Other factors that have led to the declining numbers include fishing activities and poaching of terrapins.

Chan said the project proved that the population of river terrapins could be increased with proper monitoring and management.

"Now that the groundwork has been laid, I hope that Perhilitan will come up with a similar strategy for terrapin nesting grounds in other parts of Peninsular Malaysia," she said.


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