Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Only Limited Tourists To Sarawak's Turtle Islands

KUCHING -- Tour agencies, with permits to conduct eco-nature tours on Sarawak's Turtle Islands, off the coast of Sematan, are allowed only limited number of tourists as part of conservation efforts.

Sarawak Urban Development and Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh said the state government would not compromise on nature conservation even though "nature and adventure" was one of the themes used to promote Sarawak as a tourist destination.

"As such, tour agents conducting the island-hopping package to Pulau Talang Talang and Pulau Satang must ensure that only discerning tourists (of five people) who strictly adhered to the rules and regulations of the Sarawak Wildlife Protection Ordinance are allowed," he said when opening the "Green Turtle Dreaming" exhibition at Sarawak Museum here.

The exhibition, from July 7 to Sept 20, featuring marine turtle conservation and related turtle cultures in the Australia-Southeast Asia context, is organised by the Australian Green Turtle Foundation and the Sarawak Museum Department

Wong said eco-nature tourists could assist the Sarawak Forestry Corporation's park rangers by patrolling and cleaning up the beaches, collecting turtle eggs and releasing young hatchlings into the sea.

Each tourist could also contribute to a trust fund to be set up to help conserve turtles on the islands, located at the Satang Talang Marine National Park, he said.

He said the state government, aware of the need to conserve and protect the environment for future generations, enacted the ordinance in 1998 to protect endangered species, including turtles.

"The people here do not eat turtle eggs or their meat. The turtles are not even used as a tourist icon or attraction in our islands. This shows our seriousness in conserving this rare resource," he said.

A study on turtle conservation on the islands since 1950 by the Sarawak Museum showed only one percent of the hatchlings out of the 100 eggs laid at any one time would survive due to predators like sharks and eagles.

Fifty percent of the matured turtles also returned to the place they were hatched to lay their eggs 30 years later.

He was confident the collaboration would promote goodwill and attract more Australians to come to Sarawak for holidays and visits.

Courtesy of Bernama

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