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  New Straits Times 30 Aug 06
Scientists tag turtle to track its movements

MALACCA: Puteri Pulau Upeh will give scientists valuable information which may help ensure the survival of her species, the highly endangered Hawksbill turtle.

In a five-hour "operation" a satellite transmitter, which will track her movements, was attached to her carapace--the first time a Hawksbill in the Malacca Straits has been tagged. The operation was funded by the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) and overseen by its Malacca Hawksbill Turtle Conservation Project team-leader Lau Min Min, with the co-operation of the Malacca Fisheries Department.

"The information we get from the transmitter will be critical in helping us protect the Hawksbills. If we do not know where they go and where they forage for food, then we will not know how best to protect them and their feeding grounds," said Lau.

The RM8,000 transmitter, about the length of a red brick, has saltwater switches at either end which will activate the transmitter whenever Puteri comes up for air. The location data is sent to a passing satellite on the Argos Satellite Data Collection System, the main system used all over the world to track wildlife.

Lau said Malacca was the main nesting site for Hawksbills in the Peninsula, with over 200 nestings recorded here per year. However, the rapidly eroding beaches along the coast of Malacca were threatening their survival.

"Pulau Upeh is one of its more important nesting sites. Over one third of the Hawksbills nest here each year. Sadly, the island is not gazetted to help conserve these turtles."

Malacca had no gazetted turtle nesting sites, Lau added.

Hawksbills are also hunted for their beautiful dark brown, or yellow and brown carapace, better known as bekko, which gleams like burnished gold when polished and are in hot demand in Japan to make decorative items.

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