Fishermen help for river terrapins

Written by Dr. Chen Pelf Nyok

Dr. Chen is the co-founder of Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia. She currently heads the community-based River Terrapin Conservation Project in Kemaman, Terengganu, Malaysia.

13 Feb 2013

Date: 13th February 2013
By: Sean Augustin

PETALING JAYA (Feb 13): Come March [9], 272 River terrapins (Batagur affinis) hatched in Kg. Tok Kapor, Terengganu will be released into the Kemaman river.

In 2011, 25 terrapins from the same village we released into the wild. However, the 11-fold increase is not what should please the Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia although they are no doubt ecstatic.

It is really more of how they manage to help hatch that many eggs with the help of two dedicated fishermen from Kg. Tok Kapor.

As the fishing community has been partially responsible for the declining numbers of the species in the past, the efforts of Anuar Othman and Mazlan Mamat represent the effectiveness of a continuous campaign to change the mind-set of locals on the importance of conserving turtles, especially in Terengganu, which has adopted the species as a mascot.

“They took care of the eggs like they were their own children.

“Anuar and his wife would even cover the eggs to protect them from the rain even if it meant waking up in the wee hours of the morning,” the society’s co-founder Chen Pelf Nyok told

The duo, Chen said, did so voluntarily. This is remarkable because in the past, conservationists had to cough up money to buy the eggs to compensate fishermen who could earn more by selling it for consumption.

Both Anuar and Mazlan, according to Chen, wanted to be a part of the conservation project which began in 2011, as they felt responsible for all living things in the river and wanted to help conserve river terrapins.

While praising the duo’s notable feat, Chen noted that the local community in the state is becoming more receptive to the idea of conserving river terrapins, especially in the last couple of years.

“They know of our conservation programmes and when we ask them to join, they do so without hesitating,” she said.

Chen stressed that it was very important that the local community gets involved in conservation programmes as it would decide the success of a particular project and its continuity and sustainability.

River terrapins are among the top 25 most endangered turtle species in the world, according to the Turtle Conservation Coalition.

Apart from Malaysia, the species is also found in Indonesia and Cambodia.

The Terrapin Release event has been postponed to Saturday, 9th March 2013 due to unforeseen circumstances. We sincerely apologize for any inconveniences caused.

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