by Uwe Fischer //
The Turtle Watch Camp is located on Tengah Island, about seven nautical miles from Mersing, Malaysia. The private island also hosts the Batu Batu resort and is the perfect hideaway for visitors who want to escape all the hustle and bustle of every day life. It boasts three wonderful reefs off its shores, home to an array of colorful fish families, attracting visitors like dolphins and endangered sea turtles. MALAYSIA INSIGHTS visited the Turtle Watch Camp and was introduced to its work. At the time of our visit we spoke to volunteers Stephen Lee from Canada and Mariana Pereira from Portugal.
The hatchery was opened in May 2014 and the first relocation of eggs was in June 2014. In 2015, the hatchery was enlarged to accommodate 6 times more which resulted in the safe release of 3000 Hawksbill and Green turtle hatchlings. Today, the camp is relocating eggs throughout the entire state of Johor covering over 10 islands.
„Unfortunately, there is still a lot of poaching that happens in the area,“ says Stephen, „so what we do is, we try to work with the poachers to reform them into our collectors so they still can make live their livelihood out of that.“ The Camp then takes care of the eggs, protect the sea turtles until they hatch and collect the data on how many turtles are hatching. „By doing so we can get a success rate, so that we know that we are handling them properly. So far, we are doing very well.“ At the time of our visit, they had been collecting over 4,300 eggs and releasing more than 1,300 Hatchlings.
„After the female leaves the eggs, we need to wait 50 to 70 days until they hatch,“ explains Mariana. „So they have a 20 days period where they can hatch anytime normally during the night.“ The eggs are buried about 60 centimeters deep in the sand which means that „it actually takes a few days for the turtles to dig their way out“, adds Stephen.
„Recently, we expanded our conservation work to the preservation and monitoring of corals and the identification of the main fish species that inhabit Pulau Tengah reefs“, says Mariana, „and we will also start monitoring terrestrial organisms and vegetation“. But the camp’s mission is not only to preserve, research and monitor the marine and terrestrial habitats and its associated organisms. They also deem education on the need for turtle and marine conservation as a crucial part of their work. One of the goals for 2018 is to educate more local communities and resort staff.
Anyone who is interested to learn more about the camp and how to support its work can find more information and an application form here.