Say goodbye to the leatherbacks, Malaysia!

I was heartbroken when I read about how the leatherback turtles were effectively extinct in Malaysia. While it is indeed heartening to know they are thrving elsewhere, but the fact that they are extinct here in Malaysia where they used to throng the Terengganu beaches by the thousands in the 1960s left much cause for worry.

You can read the full article here in The Star.

It is sad for me to know that these gentle creatures will no longer be seen here in Malaysia because I, like the hundreds of thousands of other Malaysians, have not had the opportunity to see a live one. Now, we do not have anymore chances to see these turtles in the wild except in pictures in wildlife magazines and the Internet. And who are we to blame but ourselves?

A leatherback turtle hatchling breaking free - Image courtesy of WWF  A leatherback turtle laying her eggs in the beaches of Trinidad & Tobago

Certainly we cannot blame the turtles for having a change of heart in visiting the pristine beaches of Rantau Abang in Terengganu! I doubt very much that it is pristine anymore either. It’s definitely not peaceful that’s for sure!

Imagine what it feels like to have spotlights from torches trained in on you while you’re trying to concentrate on performing a most intimate and important part of your life – laying eggs to ensure the extension of your own kind. It is akin to having hundreds of strangers with camera flashes and torchlights training on you while you’re trying to give birth to your child. How would you feel? You’ll definitely be very distressed and uncomfortable about it, right?

My fellow Malaysians, these turtles have the same feelings as you do! Otherwise, why do you think we’ve heard stories from people who had witnessed turtles laying eggs claiming that they saw the turtles crying tears? I don’t think it’s from the pain of excreting the eggs but rather the pain from knowing that their privacy has been intruded upon by strange two-legged creatures with bright orange eyes and who are probably waiting to consume their eggs. The turtles shed tears because they hurt, they’re in pain because they knew not all of their kids will survive. Not if we continue to harvest their eggs illegally and sell them and eat them for the heck of it.

It may be too late to woo these leatherback turtles back to Malaysian shores, but let us learn from these costly, costly mistake to ensure that other turtles such as the hawksbill and green turtles are not going the way of the leatherbacks. It will be tragic if it were so.

So I urge you, my fellow Malaysians, that should you ever visit the beaches of Terengganu or any other beaches known for being turtle nesting grounds, avoid intruding upon these poor creatures and leave them in peace! Don’t buy turtle eggs from vendors that you see on the beaches, boycott them! Donate your money instead to the people running turtle havens and sanctuaries who are doing everything that they could to ensure that future generations of Malaysians  and people around the world get to see these creatures in their glory, instead of some poor wax imitations or skeletons of turtles that you’ll see in museums, books, magazines and the Internet.

Save and Love our Turtles!


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