Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Conserving Borneo

The future of Borneo doesn't have to be a sad one, there are active organisations that work hard to protect Borneo's natural beauty.

Sepilok Orangutan sanctuary in Sabah has been rehabilitating orphaned and injured orangutans since 1964. Sepilok boasts 10,000 acres of protected virgin forest to home the animals until they are ready to be returned back to the wild.

To the East coast of Borneo lies the Sulu sea. Sitting in between Borneo and the Philippines this section of water creates the 'turtle corridor', a regular thoroughfare for sea turtles. 9 islands in this stretch of sea make up, Turtle islands heritage protected area (TIHPA) and are host to a team of conservationists who work hard to ensure the safety of the turtles nesting sites.

One of the islands Pulau Selingan allows a strict number of guests to stay the night and visit the conservation head quarters. We both HAD to visit this place. We are lovers of turtles and tortoises and Laura struggled to keep her excitement under control for the 4 days leading up to it.

The day we went to Selingan we suffered a violent mood swing from the weather. In the tropics the weather is completely unpredictable. 35 degrees and catching a tan can quickly turn into, well, still 35 degrees but raining sideways. Arriving at the jetty in Sandakan city we were advised to get our coats on as we are going to get very wet.

The usually flat calm sea was a torrent of 7ft waves. Our 30ft open sided speed boat gave us a very rough ride and spent half of its time air-born trying to fly its way to the island. Incessant waves crashing against the boat soaking us from head to toe. After an hour in the washing machine we finally landed on Selingan.

This island from the beach looks completely deserted, no buildings, no lights, no sounds completely natural. The buildings are hidden behind the trees to not deter the turtles. In the centre of the island a small community of wooden structures stand to provide the space for the rangers to work. We are checked in, fed and allowed to go and relax on the beach.

After 40 minutes on the beach torrential rain hit and forced us to take refuge in our room.

From 6:30PM onwards no one is allowed on to the beach and we have to wait inside for a turtle to land. The turtles will wait until the sun has gone down and then start scouting the beach, any lights or sounds and they wont come. If she decides that the coast is clear the mother turtle will begin the laborious task of hauling her body up the sandy beach to lay her eggs. Once an adequate nesting spot has been found the turtle will dig a body pit with all 4 flippers, then she will use her rear flippers to dig an egg chamber.

At this point the ranger on the beach radioed to us to tell us it was "TURTLE TIME" and we made our way to the beach to watch the rangers work. If the turtle is disturbed before this time they will not lay their eggs and return to the sea. When the eggs start to come the turtle enters a trance like state and continues to push no matter what.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Conserving Borneo