March 11, 2010

Turtles Face Extinction on Malaysian Shores

Conservationists said on Wednesday that Malaysia's voracious appetite for turtle eggs could drive the marine creatures to extinction on its shores.

Hundreds of thousands of turtle eggs are eaten in Malaysia each year, according to a report by environmental group WWF.

"One of the contributing factors to the leatherback turtles' disappearance from our shores is egg consumption," said WWF-Malaysia executive director Dionysius S.K. Sharma.

"We wouldn't want the same thing to happen to our green and hawksbill turtles."

At one time, turtles came in thousands to lay eggs on Malaysian beaches, but now they are increasingly rare due to poaching and coastal development. 

TRAFFIC Southeast Asia put out a report that showed the market demand for turtle eggs exceeded supply.

The report said that 422,000 eggs were traded in the northeastern state of Terengganu alone in 2007, which is double the number of green turtle eggs laid in the state.  The report also said eggs were being brought in from outside to meet demand.

It said that most consumers consider turtle eggs a "delicacy" and eat them for pleasure, not as a source of protein or for reputed medicinal or aphrodisiac effects.

"A change in attitude and behavior is needed to turn the tide if we want to ensure the survival of turtles," Sharma said.

The government has been asked by conservationist to impose a nationwide ban on the consumption and commercial sale of turtle eggs.

Sharma estimates that 10,000 leatherback turtles nested in Terengganu every year in the 1950s, but that number is now at just 10.

Image Courtesy Alan Rees/Georgia Tech


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