Terengganu turtles winning conservation war thanks to human hero

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.

8 Oct 2016

Date: 8th October 2016
By: Adrian David
Source: New Straits Times Online

KUALA TERENGGANU: A concerted effort by the Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia has helped save thousands of eggs and facilitated the release of thousands of hatchlings into Terengganu rivers.

The society’s co-founder, Chen Pelf Nyok, said that they have managed to save 2,491 turtle eggs and released 1,302 hatchlings into the Setiu River between 2004 and 2014, and another 3,754 eggs and 2,401 hatchlings into the Kemaman River between 2011 and last year.

Pelf Nyok added that their campaign of saving river terrapins, involving over 13 years of research, conservation, education and ecotourism in Terengganu, is bearing fruit.

“During this 13-year period, we managed to organise 40 turtle camps in the state which benefitted at least 2,000 students, mainly from local universities.

“We also organised various awareness programmes like the annual Raptor Watch, wildlife exhibitions, World Turtle Day celebrations and annual terrapin releases in Setiu and Kemaman,” she said.

Pelf Nyok added that the society is now actively involved in the “Turtle Discovery Trip,” wherein participants are taken on a journey to learn about the turtles and terrapins of Malaysia.

“They can get up close with these critically endangered turtles through the programme started in 2012. So far, we have conducted 39 trips and taken more than 600 guests, including school groups,” she said.

Pelf Nyok is one of the speakers who will present a paper titled ‘Saving the River Terrapins: 13 years of research, conservation, education and eco-tourism in Terengganu’ at the Terengganu International Eco and Marine Tourism conference at Primula Beach Hotel on Monday.

Born in Kuantan, Pahang and receiving her primary education in Ipoh and Malacca, Pelf Nyok has always had a strong affinity towards turtles. She pursued her passion as an undergraduate at Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT).

Upon graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology in 2004, she landed herself a job as a research assistant with a new river terrapin project on campus.

“It was during this stint that I had the opportunity to learn the ropes in turtle research and conservation. One event led to another and I decided to pursue a master’s degree in Biodiversity and Conservation,” she said.

Throughout her master’s research, she raised more than 800 river terrapins and determined the best feeding practices to raise the reptiles in captivity.

Currently, Pelf Nyok is pursuing her Ph.D. in Zoology at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) with a scholarship from the CIMB Foundation.

In 2008, Pelf Nyok became the first Malaysian to be awarded a turtle conservation scholarship from the Asian Scholarship Programme for in-situ Chelonian Conservation to the United States.

“Through the scholarship, I had the opportunity to learn about and participate in various turtle research and conservation projects that my hosts were involved in.

“This included attachments with the University of Tennessee of Chattanooga, Behler Chelonian Centre in California and the Wetlands Institute in New Jersey,” she said.

In addition to turtle research and conservation, Pelf Nyok is also experienced in public outreach campaigns, coordinates and conducts various turtle education programmes and fund-raising events.

In 2010, she organised Turtle Awareness Camps in 15 primary schools in Terengganu, with the help of volunteer facilitators, successfully reaching out to more than 500 students.


  1. TCS does NOT organize Raptor Watch. The annual Raptor Watch is organized by Malaysian Nature Society, and TCS gets invited to participate in the public outreach event.
  2. The file picture of Pelf was erroneously credited to the author of this news article. Pelf’s Mum, Madam Lai took the original photo on the river terrapin nesting bank.
  3. TCS is not “actively involved” in the Turtle Discovery Trips. TCS conducts those trips.
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