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Marine Turtles IN SARAWAK (2022-2026)


Copyright © 2022 by Sarawak Forestry Corporation.

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Published in Malaysia by: Biodiversity Conservation and Research Division, SARAWAK FORESTRY CORPORATION 93250 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia.

Printed in Malaysia by: Lee Ming Press Sdn. Bhd. Lot 1050, Jalan Swasta, Biawak Industrial Estate, 93450 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

Perpustakaan Negara Malaysia

Cataloguing – in – publication Data


James Bali, Salvia Sembai, Ian Levi Jackery, Nurdalillah Amirah Bakri, Wan Ruzzaini Wan Arman & Dyg Amira Fithriyaani : Species Conservation Action Plan (2021-2025) for Marine Turtles in Sarawak



Biodiversity Conservation and Research Division SARAWAK FORESTRY CORPORATION 2022





Basic Life History and Biology of Marine Turtles


30 THREATS AND ISSUES Exploitation of Eggs -p.31 Direct Catches -p.32 Impacts of Fishing -p.32 Destruction of Critical Habitats -p.33 Pollution -p.33 Tourism -p.34 Inadequate Research and Management Techniques -p.35 Lack of Stakeholder Involvement -p.35 Inadequate Funding -p35 Lack of Manpower -p.35

06 LEGAL INSTRUMENTS Legislation in Malaysia Federal Legislation -p.6 State Legislation -p.6-7 International Conventions -p.8





Species Occurrence -p.11 Critical Habitats -p.11 Nesting Population -p.13 Foraging Ground Population -p.14 Population Trend in Sarawak -p.15


MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES Amendments to Legislation -p.18 Protection of Nesting Beaches -p.20 Improvement in Hatchery Management Techniques -p.25 Population Monitoring -p.25 Conservation-Related Research -p.28 Public Education -p.28 Collaboration and Internship Programs -p.29






List of Abbreviations Biodiversity, Education, Awareness and Conservation


Base pair (gene unit)


C1 complimentary inhibitor gene


Confidence Interval


Cartilage matrix protein gene


Centre for Turtle Research and Conservation


Convention on Biological Diversity


Convention on International Trade in Endangered


Species of Wild Fauna and Flora Convention on Wetlands of International Importance

RAMSAR Convention

especially as Waterfowl Habitat Curved Carapace Length


Curved Carapace Width


Deoxyribonucleic acid


Dopamine receptor D2 gene


Department of Fisheries Malaysia


Economic Exclusive Zone


Fish Aggregating Devices


Forest Department Sarawak




International Union for Conservation of Nature


Indolmycenate gene cluster


Interpretation Ordinance


Malaysian Liquefied Natural Gas Group of companies


Marine Fisheries Resources Development and


Management Department Master Plan for Wildlife in Sarawak


National Policy on Biological Diversity


Non-Governmental Organizations


Protected Areas and Biodiversity Conservation Unit


Petroliam Nasional Berhad


Pulau Satang Besar


Pulau Talang-Talang Besar


Pulau Talang-Talang Kechil


Sarawak Biodiversity Centre Ordinance


Species Conservation Action Plan


List of Abbreviations Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus


Straight Carapace Length


South East Asian Fisheries Development Centre


Standard Error


Sarawak Forestry Corporation


Sarawak Forestry Corporation Sdn Bhd


Sarawak Muzium Department


Similajau National Park


Sarawak Turtle Islands


Sarawak Reef Ball Working Group


Turtles Board


Tanjung Datu National Park


Talang-Satang Turtle Research Working Group


Turtle Trust Ordinance


Talang-Satang National Park


Totally Protected Species


Wild Life Protection Ordinance




United Nation Convention Law of the Sea


Universiti Malaysia Sarawak


World Heritage Convention


Message from the

Controller of wildlife

Controller of wildlife Zolkipli Mohamad Aton Chief Executive Officer Sarawak Forestry Corporation

Turtles are a major marine icon in conservation world. The sights of turtle carapaces, bones, dead turtles in ghost-nets and illegal sale of turtle eggs invoke a passionate outcry as this wonderful set of animals have been roaming our oceans and seas for time immemorial. Turtles are in our common culture and even appeared in Lat’s cartoons since the 1980s and was highlighted as a species of concern to him. In one of his artworks, he highlighted that turtles and their eggs should be protected as egg-laying turtles were published by the national newspapers as being harassed by tourists with flash-lights. In a way, Lat’s concern for turtles via his cartoons reflected the concerns in the conservation science of that period as the numbers of turtle landings were also reported in news media as declining. By the early 1990s, the decline in Sarawak had become so dramatic that the Sarawak Government decided to take precautionary actions to reverse the decline of the species. In the intervening period since then, Sarawak has created several marine parks and also proceeded to start protecting the migratory path of turtles throughout Sarawak via the deployment of reef balls.

This Species Conservation Action Plan (2022 – 2026) for Marine Turtles of Sarawak is an amalgam of past actions as well projections of how Sarawak intends to protect this iconic species. It is written by SFC’s own biologists with input from various external specialists. It is a compilation of work from our experienced as well as new colleagues who spent the last few years in the field, and interacting with all our various stakeholders from partners in civil societies to local fisherfolks and our park wardens. As can be seen, a plethora of topics are covered, and these range from current threats to marine turtles and the general statistics of turtle eggs and nests, to past literature on turtle migratory routes, hatchery management techniques as well as the history of marine turtle conservation in Sarawak. The plan also has an implementation schedule which if carried out well, can mean turtles surviving into the future. I saw the process in developing this action plan and the passion of those that helped develop it. I also hope that this plan osmotically instils to those who read it, a spark of passion towards conservation of marine turtles.



EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The first marine turtle conservation program in Sarawak dates back to 1951, but the population has still declined by 90% in the past 50 years.

improvements in hatchery management and egg incubation techniques, and a tagging program to monitor the population trend in the long term. This Species Conservation Action Plan (SCAP) (20222026) for Marine Turtles of Sarawak was adopted from the Malaysian National Plan of Action for Marine Turtles (2019-2023) and focuses on Sarawak’s needs. Six objectives and 18 recommended actions were formulated for this fiveyear conservation action plan. The six objectives are:

The management of marine turtles in Sarawak has been well-documented since the 16th century. Poor management and little conservation due to the lack of information on the biology, life cycle and behaviour of marine turtles are the main factors which have contributed to their deteriorating numbers in Sarawak. Other than that, anthropogenic factors such as the over-exploitation of eggs, incidental catches of turtles in international waters, by-catches in Sarawak waters and the destruction of critical habitats also add to the population decline.

to reduce direct and indirect causes of marine turtle mortality; to protect, conserve and rehabilitate marine turtle habitats; to improve understanding of marine turtle ecology and populations through research, monitoring and information exchange; to increase public awareness of the threats to marine turtles and their habitats, and enhance public participation in conservation activities;

Since the late 1990s, the State government agencies responsible for the management and conservation of marine turtles have implemented many strategies in their continuous efforts to curb the declining trend in numbers and rebuild turtle populations. The tremendous efforts made include amendments to legislation, a blanket ban on the sale of turtle eggs, the establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs),

to enhance national, regional and international cooperation; and to promote implementation of SCAP for marine turtles.


Basic Life

History and Biology of Marine Turtles

The exact era when marine turtles first entered the sea is unknown, although according to Pritchard (1996), marine turtles continued to flourish at the end of the Cretaceous period, when the dominant large reptiles went extinct.

Coastal Shallow Water Benthic Feeding Zone (s) Adult

Immature turtles

Age at first breeding about - 20-50 years.

Breeding Migration

Adult males and females

Adult Females Adult males

Open Ocean Surface Feeding Zone 'the lost year (s)'

Return to Feeding Areas

Breeding Migration at 28 year intervals

vals ter n i ly eek 2w


Occurs offshore to nesting beaches

Nesting Beaches Several clutches of eggs are laid Figure 1: Life Cycle of Marine Turtles[H1] (Adapted from Lanyon, J. M., Limpus, C. J., and Marsh, H. (1989). Dugongs and turtles – grazers in the seagrass system. pp.610-634. In. Biology of seagrasses. A. W. D. Larkum, A. J. McComb and S. A. Shepherd. Elsevier, New York.)


A GENERALISED LIFE-HISTORY MODEL (Hirth and Hollingworth, 1973; Carr et al., 1978)

developed data from green turtle studies, and elaborated upon by numerous authors, provides a framework for understanding and refining the life histories of all marine turtle species. Each species diverges from the life-history model in their own significant ways, and the phenomenon of seasonal and ontogenetic shifts in habitat occupation appears to explain much of the observed movements and migration of marine turtles (Meylan and Meylan, 1990). Although each species has specialised dietary and habitat requirements that reflect adaptation to different ecological niches (Hendrickson, 1980), all species generally have the same basic lifehistory cycle (Figure 1).

There are seven living species of marine turtles worldwide: green (Chelonia mydas), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricate), olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), flatback (Natator depressus), Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempi) and loggerhead (Caretta caretta). Marine turtles are cosmopolitan in terms of their distribution. They occupy every ocean basin, with representatives of some species found from the Arctic Circle to Tasmania. Hawksbills are found to be the most tropical of the marine turtles whereas leatherbacks are known to venture into colder, sometimes polar waters (Meylan and Meylan, 1990).


Mortality is known to be very high during the early stages of the life cycle: large numbers of eggs and hatchlings fall prey to terrestrial and aquatic predators. Once the turtles reach adulthood, predatory pressures (in the absence of humans) are low.

SARAWAK’S JURISDICTION: AN OVERVIEW The Federation of Malaysia is separated into two distinct regions by the South China Sea: Peninsular Malaysia in the west and Sabah and Sarawak in the east (Figure 2). The state of Sarawak lies within the Indo-Malay-Philippine archipelago, which is part of the Indo-West Pacific region. Situated on the northwest side of Borneo Island, Sarawak encompasses a land area of 10 million ha (160,000 km 2 ) with a coastline that is about 1,035 km long. Sarawak’s territorial waters are in the southern part of the South China Sea and cover an area of 155,938 km, with sandy beaches and mudflats occurring in coastal areas. Based on the Territorial Sea Act 2012, the state’s 2 right to fisheries, marine and mineral resources, tourism sites in marine areas and so forth is confined to three nautical miles (5.56 km) from its coastline.


Nevertheless, in accordance with the Interpretation Ordinance 2005, “the territory of the State” means all areas within the boundaries of the State. As per the Sarawak (Alteration of Boundaries) Order in Council, 1954 [Vol. VI, p. 1025], and as specified in the Sarawak Government Gazette Extraordinary Part II Dated June 30, 1954, “The boundaries of Sarawak are extended to include the area of the continental shelf being the seabed and its subsoil which lies beneath the high seas contiguous to the territory waters of Sarawak”, (Chapter 61, Laws of Sarawak). The Malaysian Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles or 370 km specified under the United Nation Convention Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS) and Nation Master, 2010 is a zone beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea of a coastal State and in which the state has the sovereign right to explore and exploit, conserve and manage the natural resources. This means that the EEZ falls under “the territory of the State”.

LEGAL INSTRUMENTS LEGISLATION IN MALAYSIA Under the Federal Constitution, matters pertaining to biodiversity and its natural resources are placed either in the State list or in the Concurrent list. Malaysia’s commitment to biodiversity is reflected in the formation of several policies, centres and directorates related to the environment and biodiversity.

FEDERAL LEGISLATION At the federal level, at least seven legal Acts serve as the primary legislation for the protection of wildlife and fisheries. These include the Fisheries Act 1985, the Wildlife Protection Act 1990, Fisheries Prohibited Areas (Rantau Abang) Regulations 1990, Custom (Prohibition of Export) Order 1988, Customs (Prohibition of Import) Order 1988 and International Trade of Endangered Species Act 2008 (686). The Fisheries Prohibited Areas (Rantau Abang) Regulations 1990 is applicable only in Peninsular Malaysia. Part VII of the Fisheries Act 1985 deals with “Turtles” and inland fisheries, and promotes development and rational management by state authorities in consultation with the Director General of the Department of Fisheries Malaysia. This allows the states to regulate rules for the proper conservation and management of turtles and their eggs. Other than that, organisations such as the National Biodiversity Centre, which focuses on the inventory of flora, fauna and marine biodiversity, and the National Oceanography Directorate under the Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation spearhead biodiversity management in Malaysia.

STATE LEGISLATION Upon formation of the Federation of Malaysia in 1963, Sabah and Sarawak were provided special rights to enact legislation autonomously. In Sabah, the Fauna Conservation Enactment 1963 (Act No.11) partially protects Chelonid turtles and prohibits national and international trade of marine turtles. The Fauna Conservation (Turtle Farms) Regulations 1964 regulates the collecting of green and hawksbill turtle eggs for hatchery purposes. Part I of Schedule I of the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 further reinforces the conservation of green and hawksbill turtles by listing them as totally protected animals. In Sarawak, the State government’s commitment to managing biodiversity is reflected in several ordinances and acts such as the Sarawak Biodiversity Ordinance 1997 and the Sarawak National Parks and Nature Reserves Ordinance 1998 (Chapter 27). Sarawak also has several laws and other legislation related to biodiversity and conservation, including the Sarawak Forestry Corporation Ordinance 1995, the Wild Life Protection Ordinance (WLPO) 1998, the National Parks and Nature Reserves Ordinance 1998, the Wildlife Protection Rules 1998 and the National Parks and Nature Reserves Rules 1999.


All turtles and their eggs on the Sarawak Turtle Islands (STIs) are owned by the Turtles Board (TB) and listed as protected species under the Turtle Trust Ordinance (TTO) 1957 whereby no person is allowed to hunt, kill or capture any turtle on the STIs. Due to how rare the turtles are, the Turtle (Prevention of Disturbance) Rules were enacted in 1962, to protect the area within half a nautical mile from the coastline of each island against illegal entries. Under the WLPO 1958 (amended 1973), the Director of Forest Department Sarawak (FDS) was vested with the authority to manage wildlife in the state, and therefore became responsible for the protection of marine turtles. The Director of Museum continues to function as the Executive Officer of the TB, but only for the three STIs, namely Pulau Talang-Talang Besar (PTTB), Pulau Talang-Talang Kecil (PTTK) and Pulau Satang Besar (PSB). In 1990, the WLPO 1990 was gazetted to replace the WLPO 1958, which provides guidelines for the classification of “totally protected” and “protected” animals. Several State government agencies and local universities have worked diligently to gather the latest information on the state of biodiversity in Sarawak’s coastal waters through scientific expeditions, independent research, seminars and conferences. Through various agencies, the Sarawak government has taken an active role in addressing various environmental issues by forming numerous policies to tackle different threats posed to the environment and its biodiversity with the specific aims of balancing human demand and biodiversity resources.


“A Master Plan for Wildlife in Sarawak” (MPWS) is the first official policy in Sarawak which pertains to the management and conservation of wildlife and its biodiversity. This policy was approved by the State Cabinet in January 1997. One of the aims under the master plan is the conservation management of totally protected species (TPS) and other threatened wildlife species based on reliable information about their status and requirements. The policy also recommends that the wildlife management authority liaise with other research agencies to study other totally protected threatened species.

INTERNATIONAL CONVENTIONS Due to the wide-ranging migratory nature of marine turtles, international cooperation is pivotal in ensuring their survival. Marine turtles travel through the waters of extended economic zones of different nations as well as through the high seas where there is little to no governance, leading to the well-known “Tragedy of the Common” in which there are little incentives for conservation (Fernandez and Carson, 2006). According to Wabnitz and Pauly (2008), all marine turtle species are threatened by over-exploitation, incidental capture as well as the destruction of their critical nesting habitats. The seven species of marine turtles are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Animals (Baillie and Groombridge, 1996): Kemp’s ridley turtles and hawksbill turtles are considered Critically Endangered; loggerhead turtles, green turtles, olive ridley turtles, and leatherback turtles are listed as Endangered; and flatback turtles are considered Vulnerable. These categories reflect the global status of the whole taxa and are based on criteria such as population levels, population trends, extent of occurrence, and probability of extinction in the wild. To date, there are four global biodiversity-related Conventions of which Malaysia is a signatory party: Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES); Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (RAMSAR Convention); and World Heritage Convention (UNESCO). Alongside the responsibility under the CBD, Malaysia has been promoting biodiversity conservation as an integral part of its sustainable development efforts, and it was a policy theme in the Seventh and Eigth Malaysia Plans spanning 1996 to 2005. The National Policy on Biological Diversity (NPBD) for Malaysia was launched in 1998 to set up a long-term direction and strategic framework for the implementation of the CBD and the conservation of biodiversity properties. The NPBD contains five objectives, as well as 15 strategies and 87 action plans to achieve its vision to transform Malaysia into a global Centre of Excellence in conservation, research and utilization of tropical diversity by the year 2020. Maintaining the integrity of the aquatic ecosystem was one of the five principles listed toward achieving the country’s policy and planning goals with respect to conservation (Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, 2009).







Four species of marine turtles, namely the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), olive ridley turtle, (Lepidochelys olivacea) and leatherback turtle (Demochelys coriacea) nest on the sandy beaches and islands of Sarawak (Bali, 2005) (Figure 3).


7. Tanjung Lobang 1. Tanjung Datu National Park 2. Samunsam Wildlife Sanctuary 3. Talang Kecil Island 4. Talang Besar Island 5. Satang Besar Island

6. Similajau National Park



Figure 3: Turtle Landing Beaches

Nests of olive ridley turtles, locally known as “Penyu Rantau” or “Penyu Lipas”, have been recorded at TDNP, PTTB, PTTK and Sibuti. Less than 30 nests are recorded annually, and nesting usually occurs from February to May (Bali, 1998).

Bali et al. (2001), reported that nests of leatherback turtle, locally known as “Penyu Timbau” or “Penyu Belimbing”, were documented at SNP in 1998 (1 nest), Tanjung Lobang off Miri (1 nest), Bedaun and Siru off Sematan in 2000 (4 nests). There have been no records of leatherbacks nesting in Sarawak since 2001.

Hawksbill turtles, locally known as “Penyu Sisik” or “Penyu Karah”, were reported to nest at Samunsam Wild Life Sanctuary (SWS), PSB, Sibuti and Kuala Niah. However, less than 10 nests are recorded at each of these rookeries annually (Bali, 1998).


Marine Turtles in Sarawak FORAGING GROUNDS Results from satellite tracking studies from the year 1999 to 2001 by FDS successfully discovered that the foraging grounds of green turtles which nest in TSNP are located in the South China Sea, Sulu Sea and Celebes Sea within the waters of Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines (Bali, 2001, 2007; Bali et al., 2000, 2008). Within Sarawak territorial waters, the seagrass meadows at Kuala Lawas and Pulau Sampadi have been confirmed to be the foraging ground of green turtles. Based on the physical assessments and measurements of turtles caught during a population structure study carried out in the seagrass meadows at Pulau Sampadi, it was revealed that 90% of the caught turtles were juveniles. From the bootstrap re-sampling procedure, the estimated size of the turtles which utilised the seagrass meadows of Pulau Sampadi were recorded as: curved carapace length (CCL) = 40.45 cm ± 3.878 S.E. (95% CI=33.75-48.30); curved carapace width (CCW) = 43.35 cm ± 4.54 S.E. (95% CI=35.70-52.85); and Wt = 13.70 kg ± 0.58 S.E. (95% CI = 12.6014.80).

The findings confirmed that the seagrass meadows of Pulau Sampadi are a “development habitat” for green turtles (Bali et al., 2014). Joseph et al. (2016) stated that a total of 42 green turtles caught in Kuala Lawas of Brunei Bay had CCLs ranging from 43.8 to 102.0 cm and CCWs ranging from 40.5 to 93.0 cm. Weight could not be measured for 11 turtles, but ranged from 12 to 145 kg in 31 turtles. The population structure of green turtles at the foraging ground in Lawas of Brunei Bay were mainly adults (59.5%), followed by subadults (28.5%) and juveniles (12.0%). Recently[H1] , green turtles were observed feeding on seaweed in submerged rocky areas at SNP, Tanjung Batu in Bintulu waters and in TDNP (Personal Observation). Juvenile hawksbill turtles are often seen in the coral reefs around PTTB, PTTK, Lawas and Similajau (Bintulu), but no nest has ever been recorded in these areas (Bali, 2005). It is believed that the coral reefs there only serve as the hawksbill turtles’ foraging ground. Other coral reefs and shoals distributed sporadically in Sarawak waters could be foraging grounds for hawksbill turtles as well (Bali, 2005).


MIGRATION ROUTES Green turtles tracked by satellite from TSNP between 2009 and 2011 travelled along the coast of Sarawak (Bali, 2007; Bali & Ganyai 2008). They travelled between their nesting beaches on the STIs and their foraging grounds, within a range of 1 to 65 km from shore, while one hawksbill turtle travelled within a range of 11 km from shore (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Turtle migratory through satellite tracking. In July 2019, a joint collaboration with researchers from Behaviour, University of Tokyo (Department of Marine Bioscience Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute) resulted in the successful installation of two more satellite trackers on a return and new nester. The device used has improved capabilities compared with the previous bio logger used.

NESTING POPULATION Leh (1992) stated that the nesting green turtle populations on the STIs is different from the population in Australia and the Indian Ocean. His statement was supported by Wahidah and Syed (2008) when they revealed that the green turtle population in TSNP has a genetically distinct breeding stock compared with 10 other breeding stocks in the entire Southeast Asian region.



Results from satellite tracking studies was confirmed by Joseph et al. (In press) through a recent DNA study in which they revealed that a total of 12 haplotypes were detected in 42 green turtle samples collected at the foraging ground at Kuala Lawas of Brunei Bay. The most common haplotypes at Kuala Lawas were CmP57.1 (33.3%), followed by CmP49.1 (16.7%) and CmP87.1 (14.3%). All other haplotypes were relatively rare (< 7% each). Four haplotypes were observed in previous studies in Micronesian rookeries (CmP20.1, CmP40.1, CmP49.1, and CmP91.1) (Dutton et al., 2014), and rookeries in Ryukyus, Japan (CmP20.1 and CmP49.1) (Hamabata et al., 2014). Most of the haplotypes contained sequences identical to haplotypes based on a shorter ~380-bp region, previously found in Western Pacific and Southeast Asian rookeries (Dethmers et al., 2006; Cheng et al., 2008, Nishizawa et al., 2011; 2013), and one contained the CmP75 (IND3) sequence that has been observed in the Indian Ocean (Formia et al., 2006). Genetic composition of the Brunei Bay foraging aggregation was characterized by the dominance of CmP57 (D2), CmP49 (C3), and CmP87 (C4) haplotypes and the absence of the CmP83 (C1) haplotype that was generally observed in Australasian foraging aggregations (Dethmers et al., 2010). Haplotypes of CmP39, CmP50, and CmP54, pervasive in the southern Japanese foraging aggregations (Nishizawa et al., 2013; Hayashi & Nishizawa, 2015), were not found in the Brunei Bay, so there are significant differences in the haplotype composition between the Brunei Bay foraging aggregation and the other foraging aggregations. It is suggested that the foraging ground at Brunei Bay is utilised by source populations different from those in the northwestern Pacific and north Australia.


The results of the mixed-stock analysis strongly indicate that it is mainly the green turtles born in the relatively adjacent Southeast Asian rookeries which utilise the Brunei Bay foraging ground. This study provides important insight on the conservation of green turtles in Southeast Asia, because Brunei Bay is shown to be an important foraging ground for large juveniles and adults that nest in the Southeast Asian rookeries. Therefore, effective protection of turtles which forage at Brunei Bay will enhance breeding populations in Southeast Asia.

POPULATION TREND IN SARAWAK In the early 1950s, over 20,000 green turtle nests were recorded annually on the STIs. However, from the early 1960s to the 1990s, the nesting trend drastically decreased by more than 90% to less than 2,000 nests annually (Tisen & Bali, 2000). However, since the late 1990s, around 2,000 to 3,500 nesting female turtles occur yearly in Sarawak, which seems to indicate that the nesting trend has reached an equilibrium in the last 20 years (Figure 5). Still, this figure does not provide an indication of the actual population size since it only takes into account mature female turtles that come up on the beach to nest. Furthermore, each individual lays between two to six clutches of eggs per nesting season, and the turtles do not nest every year, with each nesting cycle separated by an interval of two to eight years.

Total nest recorded

2,500,000 2,000,000 1,500,000 1,000,000 500,000

19 1951 1954 1957 1960 1963 1966 1969 1972 1975 1978 1981 1984 1987 1990 1993 1996 2099 2002 2005 2008 2011 2014 2017 20


Figure 5: Total recorded marine turtle incubated nests from 1951 to 2020 15

Conservation and Management Strategies


CONSERVATION AND MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES The main threats to marine turtles include incidental capture in several types of fishing gear, marine pollution and other anthropogenic factors such as urbanisation and lighting on beaches (Eckert, 1996; Lohmann et al., 1996) as well as global warming (Fuentes & Porter, 2013; Pike, 2014). Tackling the conservation issue requires a combination of integrated planning and management (Ibrahim, 2006; Troeng & Rankin, 2005; Wallace et al., 2011, 2010). In Sarawak, not much biological and behavioural information was known and available when a small-scale marine turtle conservation program was initiated by the late Tom Harrison during his time as the Curator of Museum in 1952. The gazettement of the TTO in 1957 and the formation of the TB were not focused purely on protecting and conserving this species, but rather, on managing, controlling and improving the turtle economic industry. The board itself depended completely on the revenue collected from the trade of turtle eggs from the STIs to manage its operations. This resulted in more eggs (90 to 95% before the 1980s, 40 to 80% in the 1980s, 25% in the early 1990s) sold to the public rather than used strictly for conservation. It took more than 40 years for the State government to realise that this practice and existing management approaches were unsustainable, after the number of eggs recorded yearly saw a 90% decline. A number of strategies and measures have been undertaken to ensure that turtle populations do not decline further.


AMENDMENTS TO LEGISLATION Legislation pertaining to the management of marine turtles in Sarawak have been revised or amended regularly since 1957 to align with the needs, and improve the protection, of the species. The management authority responsible for marine turtle conservation has experienced numerous changes to its terms of responsibility in accordance with amendments to ordinances and state policies. There are several ordinances related to marine turtles in Sarawak which are still relevant and in-force:

Turtle Trust Ordinance 1957 (amended 1967)

Turtles (Prevention of Disturbance) Rules 1962

Customs (Prohibition of Exports/ Imports) Orders 1988

Wild Life Protection Rules 1998 (amended 2003)

Turtle Trust Ordinance 1957 (amended 1967)

Turtles (Prevention of Disturbance) Rules 1962

Customs (Prohibition of Exports/ Imports) Orders 1988

Wild Life Protection Rules 1998 (amended 2003)

PROTECTION OF EGGS Sarawak’s turtle egg protection program has a long history compared with other states in Malaysia and nations in Southeast Asia. The incubation of marine turtle eggs in hatcheries was initiated in the early 1950s, but most of these efforts did not lead to population recovery due to inadequate numbers of eggs being protected. For example, the number of eggs incubated between 1951 and 1975 were only less than 3%. From 1976 to 1978, the number of incubated eggs were around 4 to 8%. From 1980 to 1990, however, the number of eggs conserved increased to between 20 to 75%. Sarawak then saw a serious, large-scale conservation of eggs from 1991 to 1998, with 87 to 94% of eggs conserved annually. The gazettement of WLPO 1998 (amended 2003) further reinforced turtle egg conservation efforts in Sarawak. Since 1999, no eggs from the STIs have been sold to the public by the TB, and 100% of the eggs are bought and incubated by the SMD, FDS and SFCSB. A comparison between the number of eggs collected and conserved is shown in Figure 6 below.


A comparison between the number of eggs collected and conserved is shown in Figure 6 below.

Linear (Eggs)


Eggs Incubated

Linear (Eggs Incubated)






y = -12821x + 850821 R² = 0.3913

y = 4552.4x - 45824 R² = 0.7196

19 5 19 1 5 19 4 5 19 7 6 19 0 6 19 3 6 19 6 6 19 9 7 19 2 7 19 5 7 19 8 8 19 1 8 19 4 8 19 7 9 19 0 9 19 3 9 19 6 9 20 9 0 20 2 0 20 5 0 20 8 1 20 1 1 20 4 1 20 7 20


Figure 6: Total collected marine turtle eggs vs incubated eggs.


PROTECTION OF NESTING BEACHES One conservation strategy places emphasis on protecting the nesting beaches (Garcia et al., 2003; Dutton & Dutton, 2006) through the establishment of reserved areas and extensive monitoring, which reduces the harvesting of turtle eggs for illegal trade (Ibrahim, 2006; Yeo et al., 2007; Dutton & Dutton, 2006). However, despite existing legislation, clashes in policies occur periodically since certain Malaysian state laws still allow eggs to be marketed (Chan & Liew, 1996; WWF, 2009). Only the open trade of leatherback turtle eggs are banned, while eggs from other species are still widely marketed, especially in Terengganu, Malaysia (Quilter & Azmin, 2010; Abd Mutalib et al., 2013). The inconsistency in implementing policy and legislation necessitates other measures, such as relocating eggs and incubating them in hatcheries. These two measures increase hatchling success and curb illegal poaching activities (Garcia et al., 2003).

In Sarawak, the STIs were designated as a Turtle Sanctuary in 1962 under the Turtle (Prevention of Disturbance) Rules 1962, to protect the stretch of water half a nautical mile from the coastline of each island against illegal entry.


The State government took another tremendous step towards protecting the marine turtles’ critical habitats by gazetting the STIs as TSNP. The area within a 4.8-km radius of the highest point of PTTB (situated approximately at 10 55’ N and 109046.4’ E) and the area within a 4.8-km radius of the highest point of PTTK (situated approximately at 01053.8’N and 109045.8’E) were gazetted as Area II (The Talang-Talang Section), while the area within a 4.8-km radius of the highest of PSB (situated approximately at 10 47.1’N and 1100 9.7’E) and the area within a 4.8-km radius of the highest point of Pulau Satang Kecil (situated approximately at 10 45.6’N and 11009.7’ E) were gazetted as Area I (The Satang Section).

SWS are also protected since their boundaries extend up to 3 nautical miles over the water. TDNP’s boundary extends 1000 m out from the shoreline, and an area of 627 ha of water body has been gazetted as part of the park solely to protect coral reefs, seagrass beds and the critical habitats of marine turtles. Other than that, the formal notification of the designation of Kuala Lawas National Park was published in the Sarawak Government Gazette on 19 January 2017. However, the initial gazette notification of Kuala Lawas National Park with the proposed area of 13,961 ha was only published in the local newspapers by the Controller of National Parks and Nature Reserves office on 5 April 2018. The final gazzettement and boundaries of the proposed park have yet to be approved by the Sarawak Cabinet.

Nesting beaches at other coastal totally protected areas, such as TDNP,SNP and

EACH YEAR, SIGNIFICANT NUMBERS OF ADULT TURTLES ARE FOUND DEAD, BELIEVED TO HAVE BEEN CAUGHT AND DROWNED IN TRAWLER NETS. AROUND 70 TO 100 DEAD TURTLES WERE FOUND STRANDED ALONG THE STRETCH OF BEACH FROM SEMATAN TO TELAGA AIR EVERY YEAR BEFORE 1998 (Bali et al., 2004) The enforcement of federal laws such as zoning regulations provided under the Fisheries Act 1985, which prohibit any form of trawling within five nautical miles from the shoreline, can sufficiently protect marine turtles from trawlers during nesting season. However, trawlers still operate within critical areas for marine turtles. This regulation is ineffective due to recurring encroachment by trawlers in areas with a one-nautical mile radius around the turtle islands.

The patrols against these illegal trawlers are futile because trawler crews can easily detect patrols and have ample time to flee. In view of these, the Sarawak Reef Ball Project was initiated. In 1998, the Ministry of Environment and Public Health Sarawak provided FDS with a grant of RM300,000.00 to overcome the notorious illegal trawling activities – the main culprit which contributed to the death of around 100 turtles a year around TSNP. 21

At the same time, local fishermen sought help from the authorities as they complained that illegal fishing trawlers were destroying their fishing nets and the fish’s habitat (sea floor), and were taking all their fishing resources.

and Environment, Natural Resource and Environment Board, Marine Police Contingent Sarawak, Marine Department Sarawak, Jabatan Pertahanan Awam, and Ministry of Social Development and Urbanization. Reef balls were deployed randomly in areas that were identified as inter-nesting swimming grounds for turtles during nesting season radio and ultrasonic tracking studies. Their sharp and rough surfaces and a weight of almost two tonnes per unit made reef balls the most appropriate tool for keeping trawlers away from the marine turtle’s inter-nesting habitats (Figure 7).

The grant was used to purchase six reef ball moulds, bring in trainers from the USA, and to purchase some reef balls. In 1999, the Sarawak Reef Ball Working Group (SRBWG) was formed to oversee the implementation of the project. SRBWG consists of FDS, Marine Fisheries Department Sarawak, Fisheries Research Institute Sarawak, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), Sarawak Tourism Board, SMD, TB, Ministry of Public Health

From 1999 to 2018, around 5,500 reef balls were deployed in Sarawak coastal waters to serve many purposes:

From 1999 to 2018, around 5,500 reef balls were deployed in Sarawak coastal waters to serve many purposes:

Petroliam National Berhad (PETRONAS) provided RM50,000 to purchase 100 reef balls for PSB waters in 2001.

Forest Department Sarawak and SFC deployed 3,500 reef balls in TSNP waters to protect critical turtle habitats. 22

Fisheries Department Sarawak deployed around 1,000 reef balls in Lawas, Tatau and Santubong waters to protect marine life habitat from illegal trawlers and act as passive deterrent device.

PETRONAS-Malaysian Liquefied Natural Gas Group (MLNG) contributed RM4.5 million to the Biodiversity, Environment and Conservation (BEACON) Project, which was a collaboration between MLNG and SFC, to purchase 1,500 reef balls to conserve, regenerate, protect and enhance marine biodiversity in SNP and Bintulu waters from 2013 to 2015.

A total of 1,750 reef balls were deployed in Miri Sibuti Coral Reef Park, Miri from 2016 to 2018 under the PETRONAS-Sarawak Forestry Eco Marine project funded by the PETRONAS-Sarawak Joint Working Committee. The aim of this initiative was to conserve and protect the critical habitats of endangered marine species from illegal trawlers, restore degraded coral reefs, enhance marine and fishery resources by creating FADs, and create new dive sites for ecotourism.

Figure 7: The Sarawak reef Ball project.


IN 2018, THE HONORABLE CHIEF MINISTER OF SARAWAK APPROVED A TOTAL OF RM70 MILLION FOR THE “SARAWAK REEF BALL PROJECT” UNDER THE PROJECT RAKYAT (formerly known as Chief Minister’s Walkabout) for the deployment of a total of 14,400 reef balls along the coastal waters of Sarawak from Tanjung Datu to Lawas in 2019 to 2020. The main aim of the project was to protect the marine ecosystem and marine resources in State coastal waters and subsequently enhance the coral reef ecosystem as well as increase the numbers of endangered marine species, including marine turtles (Figure 8).

Figure 8: Reef all deployment map in Sarawak.



IMPROVEMENT IN HATCHERY MANAGEMENT TECHNIQUES Adequate and appropriate management of marine turtle populations, their associated habitats, and coastal ecosystems will result in the recovery of the species and eventually lead to a sustainable population. To maintain population stability, a minimum 70% of marine turtle egg clutches need to successfully produce hatchlings that reach the sea (Ahmad et. al., 2004). Hatchery management should be highlighted whenever marine turtle management is discussed as it is one of the most important methods for ensuring the longevity of marine turtle conservation. There are several reasons why hatchery management is considered an important ex situ conservation method. Nests might be inappropriately located on a beach, whether they are too near the tide line or overlap with other nesting clutches (Abd Mutalib et al., 2015). Nests that are too near to the tide line might be affected by erosive waves or flooding, causing the eggs to be damaged by salty seawater. In addition, natural predators often feed on the egg clutches; these predators include ghost crabs, ants, feral pigs, and monitor lizards, among others (Ekanayake et al., 2002; Ali et al., 2004).

On the mainland, such as at TDNP and SNP, all eggs are transferred to hatcheries because of poaching by the local community and a high predation rate by monitor lizards and wild boars. Styrofoam boxes are used to incubate the eggs if the natural nest is located too close to sea level and also during the Northeast Monsoon season (November to March), when the tide reaches the hatching sites. Since more than 80% of the total marine turtle clutches in Sarawak are incubated in hatcheries annually, efforts to improve hatchery management techniques have been a major focus in the past few years. Some methods that have proven ineffective or outdated have been changed accordingly based on recommendations and views of national and international experts as well as in line with the latest guidelines (Appendix 7). (Please see Appendix 1-6 for the data sheets that are used in the hatchery management program in Sarawak and Appendix 7 for the Hatchery Management Guidelines.)

In-situ incubation, styrofoam boxes and hatcheries are three incubation techniques that have been used in Sarawak to incubate marine turtle eggs (Figure 9). In-situ conservation is carried out at PSB, where nesting density is low (1 2 nest/45m ). Hatcheries are used at PTTB and PTTK because the nesting density is too high: 2.67 nests per m 2 and 2.62 nests per m 2 respectively.


POPULATION MONITORING The marine turtle population in Sarawak is monitored through a tagging program, and the number of nests is recorded yearly. The tagging program in Sarawak was first reported by Harrison (1956). 4,000 green turtles were tagged on the STIs between 1953 and 1955. The tagging program was rebooted by the SMD using Monel tags in 1987, but this program was terminated due to an insignificant number of tags recovered. A tagging trial using Inconel tags was then conducted at PTTK in 1996 by FDS. In 1997 and 1998, tagging was only conducted during the peak season (May to September) at PTTB and PTTK.

When the regional tagging project for South East Asian Fisheries Development Centre (SEAFDEC) member countries was started in 1998, FDS received 500 Inconel tags with their own code-number series: MY(SA) 0001 to 0500. These 500 Inconel tags were applied to turtles at PSB only since FDS still had a large amount of Inconel tags from 1996. Fullyowned code-number series that was given by the South East Asian Fisheries/Marine Fisheries Resources Development and Management Department (SEAFDEC/MFRDMD) were only applied in the year 2004 by SFCSB. A Tagging Manual for marine turtles in Sarawak is attached (Appendix 8). Figure 10 below shows the number of new nesting turtles tagged in the STIs from 1996 to 2020 and number of newly tagged and returning turtles, as well as the nesting intervals for turtles on the STIs, from 1996 to 2020.

A year-round tagging program for all three of the STIs only started in 1999. Tagging was not conducted on the mainland (TDNP) due to the low number of nesting individuals.

Figure 10: Total Number of Turtles Tagged from 1996 to 2020 26

From 2006 to 2020, a total of 475 turtle nests were recorded at TDNP. The number of nests have fluctuated throughout the years. The lowest number of landings was recorded in 2010, with just 10 nests recorded (Figure 12). The number of nests increased over the years after that, but at an inconsistent rate. The largest number of nests was recorded in 2016 with a total of 64 nests. Based on the linear regression analysis, there is a positive trend for the number of marine turtle landings from year 2006 to 2020. Nevertheless, the linear regression is considerably moderate at R 2 = 0.4731.

Figure 12: Number of Sea Turtle Nests Recorded at Tanjung Datu National Park from 2006 to 2020.

Based on the moderate linear regression is, this is still a positive result of turtle conservation efforts which were started about 14 years ago. A study conducted on the age of green turtles at their first nesting shows that the average hatchlings from a population which return to nest are around 16 years old (range: 12 to 20 years) (Zurita et al., 2011). A modelling of sea turtle maturity was also conducted by Van Houtan et al. (2014), and the results also show that green turtles first nest at the age of 16 to 20 years. Therefore, there is a possibility that the surviving hatchlings which were released at TDNP between 1996 and 1998 have matured and might now be returning to their natal beach for breeding.


CONSERVATION-RELATED RESEARCH Research on conservation numbers and management of Sarawak marine turtles have been conducted since more than 50 years ago. The scope of study is wide and includes: nesting behaviour; tagging and nesting; predations; incubation temperature and sex ratio; hatching success; population trends; causes of turtle eggs mortality; satellite telemetry (Figure 13(a)); radio and ultrasonic (Figure 13(b)); commensalisms; eggs fertility; incidental capture; impact on tourism and so on. Some of the findings were published in national and international journals while some were recorded for internal use. Some of the recommendations, management tools, and conservation techniques or procedures presented by researchers and experts have been implemented by the management authorities from time to time. Published works related to the marine turtles of Sarawak are listed in Appendix 9.

PUBLIC EDUCATION Promoting a conservation ethic via public education at all levels can be a very effective management strategy. Activities such as dialogues, talks, mediachats, and slide presentations on marine turtle issues and other marine environmental aspects have been organised for both the public and private sectors. Education materials including pamphlets, brochures and posters have also been produced and distributed.

According to Clark (1991), a combination of printed materials, audio-visual presentations and face-to-face interaction is probably the best way to start an education program. Hudson (1988) also stated that videos used to deliver a conservation message are a useful tool for environmental educators. Furthermore, equipment needed for making videos is relatively cheap and easy to use (Hudson, 1988).

Environmental education is a vital tool for conservation since it enables the expansion of knowledge about ecology and also promotes favourable attitudes towards the protection of the environment as well as the conservation of natural resources (Ehrhardt & Witham, 1992). Environmental education for children has proven to be effective in raising awareness on relevant issues (Basile, 2000).

Under the new management authority (SFC), conservation education activities have been stepped up. More participants from the public and private sectors, and from local communities and schools, will be involved in the future.


COLLABORATION AND INTERNSHIP PROGRAMS Sarawak has an excellent record of collaboration among governmental agencies towards enforcing relevant laws in the conservation of turtles. These government agencies formed the TalangSatang Turtle Research Working Group (TSTRWG) and the SRBWG in 1998 and 1999 respectively to coordinate research and patrol efforts, education on conservation, and the enforcement of relevant laws related to marine turtles. The Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment Malaysia (Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology and Innovative), Ministry of Premier Industries Malaysia (Ministries of Natural Resources and Environment) and Ministry of Public Health and Environment, Sarawak were the three major source of funding for FDS in the past. Funding from these three ministries enabled FDS to purchase state-of-the-art equipment for research, hire workers and run the conservation program.

of Marine Turtles in Southeast Asian Region. Currently, SFC is implementing the ASEANSEAFDEC tagging program and undertaking DNA study in Sarawak. Private sectors and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have also played roles in conserving marine turtles in Sarawak. From the private sector, PETRONAS contributed RM50,000.00 to purchase 100 reef balls in 1998. NGOs such as Malaysian Nature Society, Kuching Branch have been very vocal and active in the past few years in cleaning beaches prior to the nesting season. FDS has worked in collaboration with the Centre for Turtle Research and Conservation, CTReC (formerly known as Marine Turtle Research Unit, SEATRU) of Kolej Universiti Sains and Technology Malaysia (formerly known as Universiti Putra Malaysia, Kampus Terengganu) since 1998. Later, SFC collaborated with Nanyang Technology University, Singapore in research on marine turtles between 2005 and 2010.

Since 2003, SFC has represented Sarawak in many roles related to marine turtle management and conservation at a national level. SFC is Malaysia’s representative in the ASEAN-SEAFDEC Project on Conservation and Management


Threats and Issues


THREATS AND ISSUES Human activities and their consequences affect many nesting beaches. The main anthropogenic threats which affect marine turtle nesting areas include tourism and recreational activities, an increasing human presence, vehicular and pedestrian traffic, beachfront lighting and noise, uncontrolled development and construction, beach pollution, marine pollution, planting of vegetation, collisions with boats, near-shore fishing and the use of underwater explosives (Margaritoulis et al., 2003).

EXPLOITATION OF EGGS A long history of exhaustive turtle egg exploitation has been recorded in Sarawak. Leh (1989) noted that turtle egg collection possibly dated back to the 16th century, when eggs were a barter trade item with China. Bank (1986) stated that the average number of eggs exported from 1900 to 1927 was 300,000 per year. This is supported by Leh (1989), who noted that the annual number of green turtle eggs collected and sold in the local market was around 2 million in the 1950s. Bank (1986) also summarised the number of green turtle eggs taken annually between 1927 and 1985. It was recorded that one to three million eggs were collected yearly until 1960, and roughly 500,000 eggs were collected per year in the 1960s. Since then, less than 300,000 eggs were collected annually until the year 1985. When the conservation program started in 1951, only a small number of eggs (less than 10%) were incubated in a hatchery. From 1980, around 20 to 60% of eggs were incubated in hatcheries. Large-scale conservation started in 1990, where more than 75% of eggs were conserved (Bali, 2005). After the amendment of the WLPO in 1998, all eggs nested on the STIs were fully conserved from 1999 onwards.


DIRECT CATCHES Marine turtles have been traded as an international commodity for decades, resulting in a widespread decline in local populations. In Sarawak, the practice of hunting and slaughtering marine turtles for their meat or other products does not exist among the local people. However, foreign poachers frequently trespass in Malaysian territorial waters and harvest the turtles, especially the green turtles. Additionally, commercial harvesting of marine turtles in neighboring countries can impact local populations since marine turtles are highly migratory. Satellite tracking studies have demonstrated that green turtles that nest on the STIs migrate to near-shore feeding grounds in the territorial waters of countries bordering the South China Sea as well as the Sulu and Celebes Sea. The hunting of turtles in these countries thus could have contributed to the decline of Sarawak marine turtle nesting populations.

IMPACTS OF FISHING Incidental captures in fishing nets have been cited as a major threat to the survival of marine turtles worldwide. In Sarawak, the fishing industry is well-established in coastal areas where marine turtle nesting occurs. Fishing gear such as trawl nets, drift nets, fish traps, long lines, purse seines, ray nets, lift nets and even beach seines have been identified to impact on turtles in Peninsular Malaysia (Chan & Liew, 2002). The rate of turtles captured in Sarawak was high when fishing trawlers were introduced in the 1970s (Local fishermen, pers. comm.). More than one thousand dead turtles were found stranded on the beaches along the coast of Sarawak annually, and were believed to have drowned in trawler nets. In the early 1990s, most of the stranded dead turtles were recorded on the Sematan and Telaga Air beaches, which are located not far from the STIs. After the Reef Ball Project was introduced in 1998, the number of dead turtles found stranded along the beaches in those areas decreased to 20 to 30 compared with 70 to 100 per year in the early 1990s. At present, 2 to 10 cases a year are still recorded on other beaches in Sarawak.


DESTRUCTION OF CRITICAL HABITATS The loss of the marine turtles’ nesting habitats is expected in Sarawak where some prime beaches have been developed for resettlement and tourism. Excluding places where totally protected areas have been established (e.g., TSNP, TDNP, SNP, Bako National Park and SWS), beachfront development of hotels and restaurants, and the construction of seawalls or retaining walls to prevent erosion, threaten existing nesting beaches. The construction of retaining walls to prevent beach erosion along the beach from Kuala Baram to Senadin, and from Bakam to Tanjung Lobang off Miri, could hinder the turtles from coming up to nest on these beaches (Figure 15). Other than that, the loss of marine turtle feeding grounds include the seagrass beds for green turtles and coral reefs where hawksbill turtles feed. This can be a result of sedimentation, nutrient run-off, sand mining, climate change, destructive fishing methods, land reclamation and agriculture development.

POLLUTION Persistent marine debris is a serious concern as numerous cases of marine turtles accidentally ingesting plastic bags and becoming entangled in monofilament fishing lines and discarded fishing nets have been documented (National Research Council, 1990). Logs and debris from logging activities that wash up on nesting beaches become major obstacles for marine turtles coming up to nest.


TOURISM Marine turtles can be used to promote tourism in a non-consumptive way. However, negative impacts become evident when guidelines for turtle watching and conservation are not adequately laid down or mandated (Figure 16). Marine turtles can be used to promote tourism in a nonconsumptive way. However, negative impacts become evident when guidelines for turtle watching and conservation are not adequately laid down or mandated (Figure 16). Overdevelopment of fragile islands that are nesting sites for marine turtles can quickly lead to the destruction of nesting as well as feeding habitats. Increased boat traffic has also resulted in more turtles killed after being hit by propellers. Activities such as snorkeling and SCUBA diving can negatively impact turtles in the water when ill-informed tourists handle, grab, or ride them. The presence of tourists in the turtles’ inter-nesting swimming areas during the nesting season can disturb the turtles’ mating process and resting behavior. According to Camiñas (2014), the main threats tourism pose to turtles are: Moving lights and movement on the nesting beaches at night scare female turtles away when they come up to nest. Lights on the hinterland will disorientate hatchlings away from the sea and towards the land where the lights are. Barriers like sun beds and umbrellas may stop nesting females reaching a suitable nesting location on the beach. Umbrellas may damage nests or interfere with incubation temperatures. Nesting beaches may be physically altered as a result of structures built both on land (hotels, apartments etc.) and at sea. Mechanical cleaning of beaches hide turtle tracks and thus may destroy nests. Nests and beaches may be affected with the increasing use of four-wheel drive cars, beach buggies and so on in driving on beaches. Holidaymakers in large numbers on the beach during daylight hours will inevitably damage nests by treading on them (causing chambers to collapse, etc.). Such treading may also compact the sand, making the beach unsuitable for nesting or for hatchlings to emerge. Holidaymakers interested in watching turtles nest at night disturb the animals and stop them from nesting. Holidaymakers may also disturb nests by digging up the eggs out of curiosity and turning them, which results in embryo death or changes to the structure of the egg chamber. Mortality at the late embryonic and hatching stages is almost invariably associated with a bad or disturbed egg chamber. 34



Although the marine turtle conservation program in Sarawak was started 50 years ago and is amongst the earliest in the world, the nesting populations monitored dwindled until the late 1990s. Gaps still exist in many research areas critical to conservation needs as the biology and behaviour of marine turtles is complex and not well-understood. There is little data available on in-water distribution, habitat requirements and behaviour. Identified research gaps need to be filled in order to obtain results that can lead to suitable solutions in management approach.

Local communities directly associated with marine turtles and their habitats often have a detrimental impact on marine turtle populations and their habitats. Many of the threats which they pose are unintentional, arising from various activities to develop those areas by the local authorities and other agencies which are not directly concerned with marine turtles. Lack of coordination and collaboration between other agencies or local authorities with the marine turtle management authority when coastal development is involved will lead to loss and degradation of the coastal habitats of marine turtles. The management authority for marine turtles has received little support from other agencies as well as the public in previous years; they feel that conserving and protecting this endangered species is the sole responsibility of the authority concerned.



Inadequate funding limits the implementation of the SCAP for Marine Turtles and seriously hampers efforts to manage marine turtle populations. Sufficient funding is required to support the existing conservation program via measures such as purchasing materials and equipment for hatchery management and research, hiring more staff, purchasing reef balls to protect the internesting swimming grounds from fishing trawlers, conducting research, purchasing turtle eggs from the TB and conducting community and awareness programs.

At PTTB and PTTK, which currently only has four and three full-time staff members respectively. They perform all conservation works, including collecting data, relocating eggs, applying tags to turtles, measuring the turtle’s carapace, releasing hatchlings, excavating and analyzing nests, and cleaning beaches. In addition to that, they also have patrol duty and perform other park maintenance works as well. Moreover, this workload increases during peak nesting season.


Achievements of Marine Turtle Conservation in Sarawak


Species Conservation Action Plan (2021-2025) for Marine Turtles in Sarawak


REFERENCES Ahmad A., Zulkifli T., Basintal P. & Bali J (2004). Conservation and Enhancement of Sea Turtles in Malaysia. In Zulkifli, T., Ahmad A., Ku-Kassim, K. Y. and Mahyam, M.I. (Editors). 2004. Conservation and Enhancement of Sea Turtles in the Southeast Asia Region. Marine Fishery Resources Development and Management Department-South East Asian Fisheries Development Center. Balazs, G. 1982. Growth rates of immature green turtles in the Hawaiian Archipelago, p.117-125. In: K. A. Bjorndal (Editor), Biology and Conservation of Sea Turtles. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 583 pp. Bali J. & Ganyai T. (2008). Country Report on Tagging & Satellite Telemetry Studies in Sarawak, Malaysia. Paper presented during the 3rd Regional Technical Consultation on Research for Stock Enhancement of Sea Turtles (Japanese Trust Fund IV Program). 14-16 October 2008, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Bali J. & Tisen O.B. (2000). Current status of marine turtle conservation in Sarawak, Malaysia. Paper presented in the 20th Annual Sea Turtles Symposium on Biology and Conservation on 29th February-4th March 2000, Orlando, Florida, USA. Bali J. & Tisen O.B. (2012). Status of Marine Conservation in Sarawak. Paper presented during the 3rd National Seminar on Biodiversity (MyBioD12).17-19 Dec 2012.Kuala Lumpur. Bali J. (1998). The Sarawak Forest Department’s marine turtles rookery management: 1995-1998. Hornbill Journal. National Parks and Wildlife, Forest Department Sarawak. Bali J. (2000). Recommendation by the Marine Wildlife Unit for the Management and development plan for Talang-Satang National Park: In view of turtle conservation. Proceeding of the 3th Hornbill Workshop on Protected Areas and biodiversity Conservation. Sarawak Forestry Bali J. (2001). Tracking Turtles by Satellite. Conservation: No Monkey Business. Sarawak Gazzette. Volume CXXVIII No. 1543. June 2001 Issue. Bali J. (2005). Marine Resources at Kuala Lawas and Their Utilization. Proceeding of the 7th Hornbill Workshop on Protected Areas and Biodiversity Conservation. SARAWAK FORESTRY. October 2005-340: pp148-162 Bali J. (2007). Satellite Telemetry Studies on Marine Turtles of Sarawak, Malaysia. Paper presented during the 2nd Regional Technical Consultation on Research for Stock Enhancement of Sea Turtles (Japanese Trust Fund IV Program). 5-7 June 2007, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Bali J. and Tisen O.B. (2000). Country Report (Malaysia: Sarawak) on Sea Turtle Population Statistic. Paper presented in the 2nd Regional ASEAN-SEAFDEC Sea Turtles Conservation Programme Meeting, Kuala Terengganu, 21-23th Nov, 2000 Bali J. Wahed R. and Bakir K. (2000) Preliminary report on the population status of sea turtles along Sarawak’s coastline. Proceeding of the 3th Hornbill Workshop on Protected Areas and biodiversity Conservation. Sarawak Forestry. Bali J., Ganyai T. & Ubang C.K. (2008). Sea Turtle Conservation Program in Sarawak. Paper presented during the National Symposium of Sea Turtles. 6th November 2008, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


REFERENCES Bali J., Ganyai T., Tisen O.B. (2008). Conservation and Management of Marine Turtle in Sarawak. Poster Presentation during the 15th Malaysian Forestry Conference. 20-24 October, 2008. Sarawak, Malaysia. Bali J., Munsang, T.K., Ganyai, T, Ubang C.K., and Blon, L. (2014). Population Structure of Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) in Seagrass meadows of Sampadi Island, Lundu, Sarawak. Aquatic Science Colloquium 2014: Exeperience Sharing in Aquatic research III, Pulau SampadiMarine Life Expedition. Monograph, Department of Aquatic Science, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Kota Samarahan, Sarawak, Malaysia.141-148 pp. Bali J., Tisen O.B. H.C.Liew & E.H.Chan (2000). Long migration pattern of Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas) from Sarawak Turtle Islands, Malaysia. Paper presented in the 20th Annual Sea Turtles Symposium on Biology and Conservation on 29th February-4th March, Orlando, Florida, USA. Bali J., Ubang C.K. & Ganyai T. (2008). Sea Turtle Research in Sarawak. Paper presented during the National Symposium of Sea Turtles. 6th November 2008, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Bali J., Zaini M.K., Wahed R., Bakir K., Jainuddin T., & Jebron, G. Sarawak sea turtle population statistic. (2001). An update 1999-2001. Hornbill Journal Volume 5. National Parks and Wildlife, Forest Department Sarawak. Page 82-92 Bali, J. (2005) Corporate Management Plan of Sea Turtle in Sarawak. Protected Areas and Biodiversity Conservation Unit. Sarawak Forestry Corporation. (Unpublished Report). Bali, J., Tisen, O.B. and Lading, E. (2004). Conservation and Enhancement of Sea Turtle in Sarawak, Malaysia. Paper submitted to Marine Fisheries Resources Department and Management Department/South East Asian Fisheries Development Centre for the publication in the Conservation and Enhancement of Sea Turtles in the Southeast Asian Region. Bjorndal KA, Zug GR. 1995 Growth and age of sea turtles. In Biology and Conservation of Sea Turtles (Revised edn), Bjorndal KA (ed). Smithsonian Institute Carr, A., M.H. Carr and A. Meylan. (1978). The ecology and migrations of sea turtles, 7. The West Caribbean green turtle colony. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 162:1-46 Chan, E. H., Liew, H. C., 2002. Interactions between fishing gear and sea turtles in Terengganu. Paper presented at the Asian-Japan Workshop on Cooperative Sea Turtle Research and Conservation. 2001 Dec 11–13.: Phuket Marine Biological Center, Thailand Cheng I-J, Dutton PH, Chen C-L, Chen H-C, Chen Y-H, Shea J-W (2008) Comparisons of the genetics and nesting ecology of two green turtle rookeries. J Zool 267: 375-384 Clare H.L Wong, H.C. Liew, E.H Chan & Bali J.(1999). Tagging and nesting studies of green turtles (Chelonia mydas) at Pulau Talang-Talang Kecil, Sarawak. Hornbill Journal. National Parks and Wildlife, Forest Department Sarawak. Dethmers KEM, Broderick D, Moritz C, Fitzsimmons NN, Limpus CJ, Lavery S, Whiting S, Guinea M, Prince RIT, Kennett R (2006) The genetic structure of Australasian green turtles (Chelonia mydas): exploring the geographical scale of genetic exchange. Mol Ecol 15: 3931-3946


REFERENCES Ganyai T., Bali J. & Munsang T.K (2014). Manipulative technique and material to incubate Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas) eggs during Northeast Monsoon season in Talang-Satang National Park of Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo. Paper presented during the Ninth WESPAC International Scientific Symposium” A Healthy Ocean for Prosperity in the Western Pacific: scientific challenges and possible solutions”. 22-25 April 2014. Nha Trang, Vietnam. Ganyai T., Bali J., Munsang T.K. & Tisen O.B. Population Status of Sea Turtles in Sarawak: An Update from 1993 to 2013 (2013). Paper Presented during the Seminar on Coral Triangle Initiatives (CTI): Goal 5: Threatened Species Status Improving16-19 Dec 2013. Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. Ganyai T., Bali J., Tisen O.B. & Wahab T. (2010). Conservation Efforts for Stock Enhancement of Sea Turtle Population in Talang Satang National Park. Proceeding of the 10th Hornbill Workshop on Protected Areas and Biodiversity Conservation. SARAWAK FORESTRY. 14-17 October, 2010. Miri, Sarawak H.C.Liew, Bali J., E.H. Chan, & Tisen O.B. (2000). Satellite Tracking of Green Turtles from the Sarawak Turtles Islands, Malaysia. Marine Turtles Newslatter. Issued No. 87. January 2000. Hamabata T, Kamezaki N, Hikida T (2014) Genetic structure of green turtle (Chelonia mydas) peripheral populations nesting in the northwestern Pacific rookeries: evidence for northern refugia and postglacial colonization. Mar Biol 161: 495-507 Hayashi R, Nishizawa H (2015) Body size distribution demonstrates flexible habitat shift of green turtle (Chelonia mydas). Global Ecol Conserv 3: 115-120. Hirth, H. and S. L. Hollingworth. 1973. Report to the government of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen on marine turtle management. Rep. FAO/ UNDP(TA) 3178, 51 pp. Josepth J., Nishizawa H, Wahidah M. A., Syed Abdullah S.K., Jaaman, S. A., Bali, J, Norul AA. J. & Katoh M. (2016). Genetic stock compositions and natal origin of green turtle (Chelonia mydas) foraging at Brunei Bay Leh, C.M.U. (1992). The 1992 Green Turtle Conservation Program at the Sarawak Turtle Islands. Proceedings of the First ASEAN Symposium-Workshop on Marine Turtle Conservation, Manila Philippines 1993; Technical Report: 151-157pp. Nishizawa H, Abe O, Okuyama J, Kobayashi M, Arai N (2011) Population genetic structure and implications for natal philopatry of nesting green turtles (Chelonia mydas) in the Yaeyama Islands, Japan. Endang Species Res 14: 141-148 Nishizawa H, Naito Y, Suganuma H, Abe O, Okuyama J, Hirate K, Tanaka S, Inoguchi E, Narushima K, Kobayashi K, Ishii H, Tanizaki S, Kobayashi M, Goto A, Arai N (2013) Composition of green turtle feeding aggregations along the Japanese Archipelago: S.S Chai, H.C. Liew, E.H Chan & Bali J.(1999). A comparison of hatch success and sex ratios of green turtle (Chelonia mydas) eggs incubated under in-situ conditions and in hatcheries at Pulau Talang-Talang Kecil, Sarawak. Hornbill Journal. National Parks and Wildlife, Forest Department Sarawak. Tisen O. B & Bali J. (1999). Reef Ball as Marine Turtles Conservation Tool in Sarawak. Paper presented during Malaysian Science & Technology Congress 1999 on 8th-10th November 1999at Kuching Hilton, Sarawak.


REFERENCES Ubang C.K., Tisen O.B., Bali J., Wahab T. & Blon L. (2010). Reef Balls for Protecting Turtles in Sarawak. Proceeding of the 10th Hornbill Workshop on Protected Areas and Biodiversity Conservation. SARAWAK FORESTRY. 14-17 October, 2010. Miri, Sarawak. Wahidah, M.A. and Syed Abdullah, S.K. (2008). Identification of stock/population of Green and Hawksbill turtles in the Southeast Asian Region. Report on the Third Regional Technical Consultation on Research for Stock Enhancement of Sea Turtles (Japanese Trust Fund IV Program). SEAFDEC-MFRDMD. Kuala Lumpur.15-17 October 2008.125-135 Walker TA, Parmenter CJ (1990) Absence of a pelagic phase in the life cycle of the flatback turtle, Natator depressa (Garman). J Biogeogr 17:275–278 Zulkifli, T., Ahmad, A., Ku-Kassim., K.Y. and Mahyam, M.I. (Eds). (2004). Conservation and Enhancement odf Sea Turtles in the Southeast Asian Region. Marine Fishery Resources development and management department (MFRDMD)-Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC). Taman Perikanan Chendering, 21080 Kuala Terengganu.


APPENDIX 1 Egg and Nest Analysis Data Sheet RECORDER:______________________


Nesting Beach : TB(1)/TK(2)/SB(3)/TDNP(4)/S(5)/SNP (6) O(7) _______________________________ SPECIES: CM (1)/EI(2)/LO(3)/DC(4)/CB(5)/O(6)



: _______________________________

Nest No. ___________________

Tags No. : __________/___________

Type of incubation: Styrofoam boxes (1)/ In-situ (2)/Hatchery (3)/Relocated (4): ________

Nesting date: ________/________/_______Hatching date:_______/_________/__________ Excavation date: ______/_______/______ Excavation time: _______/_______/__________

Eggs hatched (Empty shield) (1) Alive/Normal (2) : ____________ Alive/ Abnormal (3) : ____________ Dead (4) : ____________

: ____________

Unhatched eggs mouldy (5) : ________________ NED (6) ____ EED (7) ____ FED (8) _____ Unhatched eggs not mouldy(9) : _____________ NED(10) ____ EED (11) ____ FED (12) _____

Sign of predation (eggs/hatchlings) Monitor lizards Ants Birds Wild boars Other causes: Water inundation Roots

(13): _________ Rats (15): _________ Ghost crabs (17): _________ Worms (larvae) (19): _________ Others: _____________

(14): _________ (16): _________ (18): _________ (20): _________

(21): __________ Other turtles (23): __________ Others: ______________

(22): __________ (23): _________


Note: NED: No sign of embryonic development (only yolk and albumin present) EED: Early embryonic death (eggs showing signs of blood or a small embryo without any pigmentation. Approximately less than 10mm long) FED: Full-term embryonic death (eggs containing a pigmented embryo. Usually more than 30mm long CM - Chelonia mydas (green turtle/Penyu Pulau/Agar) EI - Eretmochelys imbricata (hawksbill turtle/Penyu sisik/Karah) LO - Lepidochelys olivacea (Olive ridley turtle/Penyu rantau/ lipas) DC - Dermochelys coriacea (Leatherback turtle/penyu timbo/ belimbing) CB - Callagur borneoensis (painted terrapin/Beluku/tuntung laut) O - Others TB – Talang Besar TK – Talang Kecil SB – Satang Besar TD – Tanjung Datu S - Samunsam SNP-Similajau National Park O - Others


APPENDIX 2 Hatchling Data Sheet Nest No. :___________ Tags No. :___________/___________

Nest No. :___________ Tags No. :___________/___________

Species :CM (1) / EI (2) / LO (3) / DC (4)/ CB(5)/O(6): _________

Species :CM (1) / EI (2) / LO (3) / DC (4)/ CB(5)/O(6): _________

Nesting beach : TB(1) /TK (2) /SB (3) / TD (4)/ S/(5)/SNP(6) O(7) : _______

Nesting beach : TB(1) /TK (2) /SB (3) / TD (4)/ S/(5)/SNP (6)/O(7) : _______

Incubation date:_________ Number of eggs (a): __________

Incubation date:_________ Number of eggs (a): __________

Styrofoam boxes (1) /In-situ (2) /Hatchery (3) /Relocated (4) : ______

Styrofoam boxes (1) /In-situ (2) /Hatchery (3) /Relocated (4) : ______

Date of Hatch _ 1.____________ 2.____________ 3.____________ 4.____________ 5.____________

Date of Hatch _ 1.____________ 2.____________ 3.____________ 4.____________ 5.____________


Alive _________ _________ _________ _________ _________

Died ________ ________ ________ ________ ________

(b) _________ (c) ________


Alive _________ _________ _________ _________ _________

Died ________ ________ ________ ________ ________

(b) _________ (c) ________

Hatching success: (b) + (c) x 100% = (a)

Hatching success: (b) + (c) x 100% = (a)

Number of hatchlings released : ______

Number of hatchlings released : ______

Nest No. :___________ Tags No. :___________/___________

Nest No. :___________ Tags No. :___________/___________

Species :CM (1) / EI (2) / LO (3) / DC (4)/ CB(5)/O(6): _________

Species :CM (1) / EI (2) / LO (3) / DC (4)/ CB(5)/O(6): _________

Nesting beach : TB(1) /TK (2) /SB (3) / TD (4)/ S/(5)/SNP(6)/O(7) : _______

Nesting beach : TB(1) /TK (2) /SB (3) / TD (4)/ S/(5)/SNP(6)/O(7) : _______

Incubation date:_________ Number of eggs (a): __________

Incubation date:_________ Number of eggs (a): __________

Styrofoam boxes (1) /In-situ (2) /Hatchery (3)

/Relocated (4) : ______

Styrofoam boxes (1) /In-situ (2) /Hatchery (3)

/Relocated (4) : ______

Date of Hatch _ 1.____________ 2.____________ 3.____________ 4.____________ 5.____________

Date of Hatch _ 1.____________ 2.____________ 3.____________ 4.____________ 5.____________


Alive _________ _________ _________ _________ _________

Died ________ ________ ________ ________ ________

(b) _________ (c) ________


Alive _________ _________ _________ _________ _________

Died ________ ________ ________ ________ ________

(b) _________ (c) ________

Hatching success: (b) + (c) x 100% = (a)

Hatching success: (b) + (c) x 100% = (a)

Number of hatchlings released : ______

Number of hatchlings released : ______


:________________________ :________________________ : __________________________



:________________________ :________________________ : __________________________

APPENDIX 5 Tagging and Nesting


Hatchery Management Guideline


HATCHERY SET-UP AND CONSTRUCTION Hatcheries should be located as close as possible to the nesting beach to minimize physical trauma to eggs during transportation, reduce the time interval between the eggs are laid and when they are planted in the hatchery, to provide the opportunity for embryos and hatchlings to imprint on the nesting beach, and to facilitate hatchling release.

To maximize the diversity of conditions in which eggs are incubated and released, several hatcheries should be positioned to include the range of microhabitats utilized by nesting turtles, keeping in mind the need to include representative temperature regimes.

At beaches where individual nests are at risk from localized threats such as erosion, inundation, or unintentional human disturbance, threatened egg clutches can be selectively relocated to safer points along the beach. In such cases, where human or animal is not a serious problem, it is best not to construct an enclosed hatchery or employ cylindrical mesh enclosures (Ideally, hatchlings should not be dependent on people for their release).

The surface of hatchery site should be located at least 1 m vertical distance above the level of the highest spring tides to prevent underground flooding of the eggs. Avoid placing the hatchery where it might be inundated by tidal streams that form behind the beach during very high tides, or unpredicted flooding could destroy he hatchery. Chain link fence, wire mesh or barbed wire should enclose the hatchery. To discourage crabs and other small burrowing predators from entering the enclosure, a 1-2 m wide strip of netlon mesh (1 cm) should be buried to a depth of at least 0.5 m along the inside of the fence. To prevent infestation from fungus and bacteria, the same hatchery site should be used during two consecutive nesting seasons.


HOW MANY EGGS FOR CONSERVATION IN SARAWAK? At least 70% of eggs laid should be protected. In Sarawak case where the population has already suffered a history of over-exploitation in the past 50 years, that figure need to approach 100%. To ensure a natural sex ration, eggs destined for the hatchery need to be obtained throughout the nesting season in numbers proportional to the amount to the amount of nesting that occurs each month for each species.

COLLECTION AND TRANSPORT To minimize embryonic mortality due to handling, all eggs should be planted in the hatchery within 2 hours of being laid (no clutch should remain unburied for periods exceeding 5 hours). Where there is opportunity to collect eggs as they are laid, eggs can be collected by hand as they drop from cloaca and place them gently in a bucket (please try to avoid the nesting process of the turtle). In other circumstances, clutches must be excavated after the nesting turtle has returned to the sea. Eggs should be handled with care. Special care is needed when handling eggs that are more than 2 hours old (for example, when translocating eggs, the following morning or when salvaging mid-term clutches that threatened by erosion). The delicate embryonic membranes of older eggs are easily torn if the eggs are rotated or jarred. Dislodgement of the embryo results in death. Precautions should include marking the top of the eggs to a bucket or other inflexible container (not a sack) to ensure that they are not rotated either during transport or during reburial.


REBURIAL Insofar as possible, each clutch should be planted within the hatchery enclosure in microhabitat approximating its natural nest. Hatchery nests should be situated at least 0.5 m apart to minimize their impact upon one another and allow room for hatchery caretakers to move about. Nests should be constructed in the shape of a flask or urn, with a rounded bottom and a straight narrow opening leading from the egg chamber to the surface. Natural nest depth should be measured and duplicated in the hatchery. If nest excavation is hampered by cave-ins during periods of very dry weather, pour a bucket of fresh water into the unfinished nest and continue nest construction. Place eggs into the hatchery nests a few at a time if eggs are less than 2 hours old (one at a time if eggs are holder than 2 hours); under no circumstances should be eggs be “poured’ into the nest. The damp sand removed during excavation of the artificial nest should be used to cover the eggs, firmly tamping it in place in layer of 812 cm. Dry sand should not contact the eggs, and should be used only during final stages of covering the nest. Each nest should be numbered also associated with a standard data record form.

CYLINDRICAL MESH ENCLOSURES Cylindrical mesh enclosure over the top of each nest should be constructed from plastic netlon mesh (< 1 cm mesh). “Chicken wire or metal wire should not be used; the mesh is too large and hatchlings get injured when their heads and flippers protrude through the opening. Netlon mesh should be cut into pieces approximately 40 cm in height and 195 cm in length, to form a cylinder 60 cm in diameter. Nylon string can be used to tie join the ends of the mesh to form the cylinder and to secure it into the substrate. The mesh should be buried about 10 cm into the sand to reduce entry by burrowers, such as crabs. The top of the cylinder can be fitted with netlon cover, mosquito netting or other appropriate mesh to prevent from rats or other predators.


HATCHLING RELEASE Under natural conditions, group of hatchlings enter the sea at random points along the nesting beach and at unpredictable times. Ideally, hatchery turtles should be released in groups as soon as possible after emerging from their nests, but early emergent should not held back in order to create a larger group. To randomize release sites (reducing the prospect of creating fish “feeding stations”). Each release should occur at a point 50 meters from previous release point. Hatchery personnel should anticipate hatchling emergence (noting that hatchlings usually emerge about 45-60 days after eggs are laid) and check mesh enclosures at frequent intervals (at least every 30-60 min) during periods of

anticipated emergence. To promote natural imprinting, hatchlings should be allowed to crawl across the beach and enter the sea unassisted. When immediate release is impossible (especially during low tides), hatchlings should be placed in a soft, damp cloth sack and kept in a cool, dark, quite place. Hatchlings kept in a container of water will engage in “swim frenzy” behaviour and are likely to exhaust energy reserves stored in the yolk sac; they may even imprint to conditions in the container rather than to those at sea. Do not release hatchlings near rocky or coral bottoms as predation is high in these locations. Do not use torches during hatchling release. Simulate natural conditions on a nesting beach. Record predators and all dead hatchlings found after the release.

INCUBATION IN STYROFOAM BOXED Egg clutches incubated in Styrofoam boxes enjoy particularly high rates of hatchlings success, but require careful manipulating of temperature and moisture conditions. Cool temperature characterizes the boxes and favour male offspring. Warming the boxes in the sun or with artificial heat sources causes moisture loss, careful applications humid, but not water-logged.


Newly emerged hatchlings should be left inside the closed Styrofoam box for several days prior to their release until they have absorbed their external yolk sac and their plastron has flattened. (No one knows whether Styrofoam box hatcheries interfere which hatchlings imprinting to their natal beaches).

EVALUATION AND NEST ANALYSIS To determine hatch success and fertility of the eggs, about five days after the initial emergence, excavate the nest and analyze nest remains excavate of clutches. Count of the following should be made in nest analysis: Number of eggs initially in the nest; number of healthy hatchlings emerged and released; number of empty hatched eggshells; number of hatchlings (differentiate between life, dead, and deformed individuals) found remain in the nest; number of unhatched eggs with embryos-early (unpigmented), pigmented, full term; and number of unhached eggs without embryos-unspoilt yolk, broken yolk, rotten. Remove all nest remains after analysis to avoid fungal and bacterial contamination of the sand.


A Guideline for Tagging of Marine Turtles in Sarawak


PURPOSE OF THIS GUIDELINE This guideline has been prepared primarily to assist the field staff in Sarawak Forestry Corporation in Sarawak to undertake tagging programme on sea turtles. This document is adapted from Tagging Guideline Designed for the Southeast Asia Turtle Tagging (SEATT) program.


Sea turtles are tagged to enable identification of individuals for research purposes. By identifying individuals we are able to learn about their migration patterns, location of foraging habitats, reproductive biology, stranding and growth rates. In many cases, a commitment to years of systematic tagging may be necessary to achieve certain objectives. It is imperative that tagging and conservation efforts of these species are approached at a regional level. Marine turtles are known to migrate several hundred and even thousand of kilometres between foraging and nesting grounds and in most cases these migrations will cross more than one nation’s boundaries. Conservation efforts in one country may hence be rendered useless if these creatures cross into a neighboring country where laws are not in place and enforced to protect the species.


There are seven valid species of sea turtles in the world, with four of these found in the waters of the Southeast Asia region, but only recorded in Sarawak. Tagging is to be undertaken on all four species of sea

Chelonia mydas CM Green turtle Penyu Agar; Pulau; Pulo

Dermochelys coriacea DC Leatherback turtle Penyu Belimbing; Timbau; Timbo;

4 4 turtle found in Sarawak.

Eretomochelys imbricata EI Hawksbill turtle Penyu Karah; Sisik; Sisit


Lepidochelys olivacea LO Olive Ridley turtle Penyu Lipas; Rantau; Ranto; Bengal

SPECIES IDENTIFICATION Species can be quickly and easily identified through a number of key morphological characteristics and scale information (see Appendix 2 and Appendix 10 ).

TAGGING ON ADULTS/SUB-ADULTS For this program, tagging will be focused mainly on adult turtles, which will be encountered in nesting habitats, inter-nesting habitats and foraging areas. Adult males are easily distinguished as having a long tail, which extends well beyond the carapace. However, care must be taken, as some large male sub-adults and juveniles may not have developed long tails and could therefore be mistaken for females. In foraging habitats, only adult males can be reliably identified by their long tail.


All other individuals encountered could be either adult females, subadult females or sub-adult males (that have not yet developed their long tail). Adult females are the only mature, healthy individuals encountered on land, as they crawl onto sandy beaches to lay their eggs. For this study the code M will refer to any adult male identified as having a long tail extending well beyond its carapace and the code F will refer to any female adult encountered on a nesting beach laying or attempting to lay eggs.

CODE The proposed tagging programme is planned to cover the coastal areas of Sarawak, from Tanjung Datu to Lawas. ISO codes and sub-area codes fill follow the codes given for the Southeast Asian countries which have been utilized to identify information gathered from the different countries and different regions within each country (See Table 2). ISO code for Malaysia is MY and Sub-Area codes For Sarawak is 4.4. TABLE 2. ISO CODES AND SUB-AREA CODES FOR THE COUNTRIES AND REGIONS INCLUDED IN THE SEATT PROGRAM. Country and Sub-area 1. Brunei Darussalam

ISO Code

Sub-area Code



2. Indonesia


West Sumatra


South Java


Malacca Strait, Sumatra


East Sumatra

North Java

Bali, Nusa Tenggara






Maluku and Irian Jaya



2.4 2.5

3. Kampuchea


4. Malaysia


Peninsular Malaysia-East Coast


Peninsular Malaysia-West Coast






5. Myanmar


6. Philippines








7. Singapore


8. Thailand


Gulf of Thailand


Indian Ocean



9. Vietnam 69



This program will focus mainly on the tagging of female turtles at nesting beaches in main turtle rookeries, as these habitats are generally easily accessible. If possible, tagging should be conducted at all turtle rookeries. However, taking into consideration of manpower, time and resource constraints, priority should be given to rookeries with highest density turtle nesting.

Tags can also be applied to sea turtles found in areas identified as foraging habitats. Tagging can be made on basking turtles, i.e. turtles left in the inter-tidal area during low tide, or on those caught by netting or hand capture (i.e. jumping from a boat). However, studies involving the capture of marine turtles increase the stress experienced by the turtles and pose considerable risk to the capturers. These studies should only be conducted in circumstances where expected results would outweigh the risks and when the appropriate training in turtle capture and handling has occurred.

TAGS AND TAGGING EQUIPMENT There are several types of flipper tags available on the market. The most effective tags on the market today are self-piercing metal tags made from non-corrosive metals or alloys. The size of the tag should be considered with respect to the size of the target species. Tags should be large enough to avoid permanent pinching pressure on the area applied and as small as possible to reduce build up of fouling organisms (barnacles, algae, etc.), which can produce drag. The tag type used in Sarawak is the Inconel self-piercing metal tags (same as received from the with all expenses paid by the MRFDMD/SEAFDEC. Each tag will be uniquely identified by a tag number and the name of the relevant institution: Tag Number - on the top face of the tag. It consists of two-letter prefixes (follows ISO Country Codes; capitalized) followed by a serial number. For Sarawak codes are: MYSA XXXX

Institution’s name and permanent address – on reverse face of the tag. Please return to: Sarawak Forestry Corporation Fax: +6082499654 Tel: +6082610088


TAG APPLICATORS Metal tags require a special applicator for proper attachment. When the applicator is squeezed the sharp point of the tag pierces the flipper and passes through into a hole in the opposite end of the tag where it bends over and lock into place. Important! Do NOT attempt to apply tags with any instrument other that the specially designed tag applicators.

CARE FOR TAGGING EQUIPMENT All applicators should be checked and cleaned on a regular basis and discarded when they cease to function properly. During times of storage, the applicators should be greased to avoid rusting. Metal tags must be cleaned in warm soapy water prior to usage to remove lubricating oil or other residue resulting from the manufacturing process. Soaking the tags in alcohol or other agent as a final step may also be advisable to disinfect and prevent transmission of disease to the turtle.


TAGGING PROCEDURE EACH PATROLLING BeachB Patrolling When conducting tagging studies that involve beach patrolling, care must be taken When conducting tagging studies that involve beach patrolling, care must be taken not to disturb the not to disturb the nesting process. Nesting marine turtles are easily disturbed by nesting process. Nesting marine turtles are easily disturbed by lighting and movement on the beach. lighting and movement on the beach. Therefore, dark clothes are recommended to Therefore, areof recommended use of torchlight is to be kept at a minimum. be dark wornclothes and use torchlight isto tobe beworn keptand at a minimum. When a nesting female is encountered the following rules must be obeyed: Always approach the turtle from behind in a crouching position No use of torch light until oviposition is complete Keep noise and movement to a minimum If a female is encountered emerging from the water wait motionless for it to crawl into the dunes before continuing beach patrol.

When to tag In foraging ground studies marine turtles should be tagged as soon as possible after capture and released immediately.

Nesting females should be allowed to finish laying their eggs before tagging takes place. The ideal time is either immediately after oviposition or at any time between post-oviposition and the time before she starts to move back to the sea. Tags can also be applied when nesting female turtles are on their way to the sea. In this case, a worker can place himself in front of the turtle and use both hands to cover the turtle’s eyes with strong downward pressure to stop it from moving, while the other worker can apply the tags.

Turtles should never be turned onto their backs.


Where to tag? Tags are generally applied to front or hind flippers, depending on the species encountered.

Leatherback Turtles

All other species

For the leather back turtle, tags are

For all other species tags are applied to the front flippers. The optimal tagging

usually fixed adjacent to rear flippers.

site is adjacent to the first large scale on

Tags are applied on the skin between

the proximal edge (position 1, Figure 2).

the tail and the hind flipper on both

If that site is unavailable due to tissue

sides (Figure 1). Figure I. Leatherback

damage etc., tags should be applied

turtle with Inconel tag applied to right

between the first and second scales and

hind flipper. Source: Mathew Godfrey

second and third scale respectively


(positions 2 and 3) Figure 2. Positions for applying tags to the front flippers of marine turtles.

Figure 1

Figure 2


How to tag? Once the nesting female has completed oviposition or foraging turtle captured the following tagging procedure should be followed:

Check flippers for previously applied tags and/or tag When conducting tagging studies that involve beach patrolling, care must be taken scars

not to disturb the nesting process. Nesting marine turtles are easily disturbed by lighting has and been movement on the beach.record Therefore, darkcode clothes recommended If the nesting female previously tagged, country andare number. If the tagto be worn and use of torchlight is to be kept at a minimum.

number is unidentifiable by barnacles remove these. Also check the carapace for any obtruding

barnacles and remove these from the carapace. Old tags found on recaptured turtles that are unreadable due to corrosion or being embedded with tissue should be removed and replaced with a new tag. If a turtle from a different program is re-tagged the original tagger should be informed of the change.

Clean tagging site

Check alignment of tag

Clean away all sand and debris

This can be done by gently squeezing the tag


between the fingers to ensure the piercing tip




is aligned with the hole on the opposite face.


Position the tag over the tagging site Ensure that the piercing tip is placed between the scales on the dorsal surface of the flipper and the inside bend of the tag is lightly touching the proximal edge of the flipper. Placing the tag too far onto the flipper will restrict its movement and placing the tag too close to the proximal edge of the flipper may result in tag loss.


Insert tag into tag applicator Make sure the tag clicks in securely and the hole of the tag is above the indent of the applicator, this ensures that when the self-piercing tip goes through the hole it will bend around and secure the tag properly.

How to tag? Once the nesting female has completed oviposition or foraging turtle captured the following tagging procedure should be followed:

Apply the tag

There are two distinct motions in applying

Check alignment of tag

tags: 1) squeeze the applicator firmly so the

This can be done by gently squeezing the tag between the fingers to ensure the piercing tip is aligned with the hole on the opposite face.

tag tip pierces the flipper, 2) apply a greater force to ensure the tip correctly interlocks through the hole. It is recommended that both hands are used and the applicators are gripped as far back as possible to obtain maximum leverage.

Check correct tag application

Caution: Piercing of the tag often causes sudden

Check that the tip has been properly

movements of the flipper. Be prepared to

interlocked through the hole. The tag tip

follow the movement of the flipper (avoids

should overlap the edge of the hole by



at least 3mm (see right). If the overlap is

maintaining downward pressure of the

insufficient carefully fit the tag back into

applicator. Powerful flipper strokes can also

the applicator and apply greater

throw sand in eyes and cause foot and

pressure. If this is still unsatisfactory

hand injuries.

remove and apply another tag.





Important! All tagged turtles must have TWO correctly applied tags. This insures against the loss of one tag. Correctly applied tags are important as improperly applied tags are shed quickly.


Figure 3

Tagging Data Sheets A data sheet should be completed for every turtle encountered in a tagging study (see Appendix 5). The common tagging parameters collected fall into the following data categories:


This refers to the date and time of encountering the turtle. To categorise all nesting turtles from one night into the same date, turtle date has been established. Turtle date is the 24hr period from 12 noon to 12 noon the following day. (Example: Turtle date13/3/02 is the period from 12noon 13/3/02 to 12 noon 14/3/02.)


Country code (ISO code): see Table 2 Sub-area: see Table 2 State Division District Name of Beach Sector of beach (if applicable)


Record number and position of newly applied and recaptured (previously applied) tags. The tag number must include the letter prefix denoting the country. The location must include the flipper tagged (see Table 3 ) and the position of the tag on that flipper (refer back to Figure 2). Code



Left Front


Right Front


Left Hind


Right Hind


Table 3

Tagging Data Sheets


For the purpose of this study the Curved Carapace Length (CCL) and the


Curved Carapace Width (CCW) will be measured. CCL is measured from where the skin of the neck meets the shell at the anterior point of the carapace along the midline to the posterior notch (see Figure 4(a)). CCW is measured at the widest point of the carapace and position may differ between individuals (see Figure 4(b)).



Figure 4: Diagramatic representation of carapace measurements. a, CCL; b, CCW

Note: all measurements to be taken with a flexible plastic tape measure, which should be regularly calibrated against a steel tape measure.

Beach position: refers to the position of the nest along the beach slope NESTING NESTING INFORMATION INFORMATION (Figure 5).

Below HWM – below the high water mark Beach slope – area between HWM and start of the first sand dune Dune 1 – anywhere on dune 1 Dune 2 – anywhere on dune 2 Figure






typical beach slope, representing the nest position zones.


Tagging Data Sheets



Habitat: refers to the vegetation surrounding the nest. Bare sand – sand free of any vegetation Grass/creepers – in the sand between grass and creepers Under shrub Under tree Nest location: for studies where the exact location of the nest is required, numbered posts should be placed at regular intervals (approximately 25m apart). Nests can then be accurately mapped by measuring the distance to the two posts it is laid between (Figure 6).







determine the exact position of a nest. This nest is laid seaward 12.74 metres from post 1 and 19.76 metres from post 2. All measurements are made from the base of each post to the centre of the nest.

DAMAGE DAMAGE AND AND Any damage or commensals (barnacles, algae, mud, etc.) observed should be COMMENSALS COMMENSALS recorded and indicated on the turtle outline.


Emerge from sea: Time that turtle emerge to beach from sea Crawl to nest site: Period of time taken by turtle crawled from sea to nest location Clearing nest premises: Period of time taken by turtle cleared nest premises Excavate body pit: Period of time taken by turtle excavated its body pit Excavate egg chamber: Period of time taken by turtle excavated its egg chamber Oviposition: Period of time taken by turtle deposited its eggs Covering: Period of time taken by turtle covered its egg chamber Filling body pit: Period of time taken by turtle covered its body pit




Activity: Entering sea: Time of turtle entered sea Total nesting time: Total period of time taken by turtle for its nesting process Laid – refers to successful oviposition Laid/disturbed –refers to oviposition begun but not completed due to disturbance No lay – refers to unsuccessful nesting attempt Number of body pits Number of egg chambers Nest and clutch data Any clutches that are relocated, additional data is required: a) Relocated – circle yes or no to indicate if the nest has been relocated b) Number of eggs – record the number of eggs relocated c) Time of oviposition - record the time oviposition is completed d) Time of relocation – record the time relocation is completed Nest depth - the distance from the sand surface to the top of the eggs and the bottom of the nest should be measured and recorded Meteorological data Circle the appropriate response for the following meteorological information Moon phase Weather


Tide height – at time of emergence from the sea. Scale Counts Scale counts should be made on all nesting females and recorded on the back of the data sheet. The number of scales will differ between and within species so care must always be taken to correctly count the scales.


TAG RECOVERY EACH PATROLLING BeachB Patrolling When conducting tagging studies that involve beach patrolling, care must be taken not to disturb the nesting process. Nesting marine turtles are easily disturbed by crucial lighting for all parties involved. The three means of recapturing a taggedare turtle include intentional and movement on the beach. Therefore, dark clothes recommended to and use of accidental torchlight or is to be kept at a minimum. capturebe byworn the researcher, intentional capture by fishermen, and the chance

Tagged turtles that are never seen again have not reached their full potential. Recovery is hence

encounter by the public, such as finding a turtle stranded ashore. Directed efforts can be carefully planned to increase the possibility of recovering tagged turtles. Other means are mostly a matter of luck and the willingness of the person involved to report the tag.

Research recaptures Research recaptures in this instance refer to all sea turtles encountered with tags in nesting and foraging habitat studies. All STTAFF involved in Sea Turtle Tagging program in Sarawak will record the tag numbers of turtles encountered with tags and make this information available to the rest. It is important that all information of a tagging event is accurately recorded and stored for future retrieval. The principal value of tagging, results from the recovery and recognition of a turtle at some later date. The archiving of all tagging information should therefore occur, with duplicate copies stored separately as a safeguard against catastrophic loss. Sarawak databases of tagging information offer several advantages if it will operate properly with long term funding support. These databases should ensure accurate archiving of data, protection against loss, timely retrieval of tag information and the capacity to analyze data on a regional basis to facilitate regional management of sea turtles.



Public recaptures

Fishing recaptures

In order to receive more recovery data, publicity

Fishermen should be educated in recording basic tag information (e.g. tag numbers, location encountered, health status) and encouraged to share this information with the authorities. Anonymity should be guaranteed. However, no incentive will be given as this can often result in fishermen targeting marine turtles for the tag rewards.

is necessary. This can be achieved by informing the public through distribution of a tagging recovery report form to the local communities (see Appendix 8). Public are encouraged to inform the Biodiversity Conservation Department, Protected Areas and Biodiversity Conservation Unit of Sarawak Forestry Corporation to report tag recovery data via tel.: 082 302301 or fax: 082 341550.


Sea Turtle Tags Recovery Report


Laporan Penemuan Tanda Penyu


Bahasa Melayu

Tags Number : Left: _________

(Nombor Tanda): Kiri: __________


Kanan: _________

When the turtle was caught/trapped/found:

Bila penyu tertangkap/terperangkap/dijumpai

How the turtle was caught/found:

Bagaimana penyu tertangkap/terperangkap/dijumpai

What happened to the turtle: Dead ( )/Alive ( )/ Released ( )/ Kept ( ) (Please descript more details)

Apa terjadi kepada penyu tersebut: Mati/Hidup/Dilepas/Dikurung

terperinci): (Sila jelaskan lebih

Other observation (include possibly caused of mortality)/ Lain-lain pemerhatian (termasuk kemungkinan sebab kematian)

Report by/Laporan oleh:

Please send to/Sila hantar kepada:

Name: Address:

Biodiversity Conservation Department Protected Areas and Biodiversity Conservation Unit Sarawak Forestry Corporation Lot 218, KCLD, Jalan Tapang Kota Sentosa, 93250 Kuching Sarawak, Malaysia Tel: 082-610088 Fax : 082-610099

Tel: Fax: E-mail: