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  Channel NewsAsia 7 Jun 06
Malaysian experts hopeful turtles will return after disastrous season

KUALA LUMPUR : Malaysian experts have reportedly said they are hopeful turtles will return in coming years after a disastrous nesting season in 2005 when just one turtle laid eggs compared to thousands in previous years.

Kamaruddin Ibrahim, director of the Turtle Marine Ecosystem centre in northeastern Terengganu state said about half a million hatchlings were released into the ocean between 1961 and 2001.

"It is only a matter of time before the mature females return," he told the New Straits Times, adding that turtles return to their birthplace every three to five years to lay their eggs. "So we can expect more landings in the coming years, during the May to September nesting season," he said, giving the odds of female adults returning to lay eggs at between 1,000 and 10,000.

Last year only one leatherback turtle -- the most endangered of Malaysia's turtles -- was sighted.

And for the first time in history, neither of the other important species -- Olive Ridley and hawksbill turtles -- landed at the traditional nesting sites.

The alarming development raised fears that the turtles may be lost forever from the beaches, which are a big draw for tourists who come to watch the egg-laying as well as the emergence of hatchlings.

Conservationists have warned of a steady decline in turtle landings in Terengganu, from some 10,000 recorded every year in the 1960s.

Turtles are hunted for their meat and shell, and are also killed by getting entangled in fishing nets in the open seas. The tourism industry boom has contributed to the decline, with hotels and bright lights near the beachfront caused turtles to shy away. - AFP /ct

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