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  Daily Express 11 Oct 06
Hatchery planned to make Pulau Gaya a turtle stopover

Kota Kinabalu: A Turtle Hatchery Centre has been planned for the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park here and is expected to be set up before the end of this year.

Putatan MP Datuk Dr Marcus Mojigoh said a special committee comprising representatives from his office, government agencies and NGOs had been set up to finalise the location for the proposed centre.

Speaking to reporters after visiting potential sites in Police Bay, Pulau Gaya and nearby Sulug Island on Tuesday, he said selection of the site would be based on economic viability (in order to finance its daily operations), accessibility and security.

He has set aside an initial fund of RM30,000 from his MP Fund to kick off the project, which he hoped would also get support from the State Government.

"This is actually not sufficient to complete the whole project as it is just to organise the Save Our Turtle awareness campaign that will be focussed on school children, relevant NGOs, corporate bodies and government agencies," he said.

The islands in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, which is just a few minutes by boat from the city and surrounding areas, and even Putatan Beach, once used to be the laying ground of turtles.

The supply of turtle eggs would be obtained from Selingan Island in the East Coast, which needs to be transported within 24 hours and moved into its new hatchery in the Park here.

Towards this end, Mojigoh said the committee would also be getting views from experts, WWF and Wildlife Department on the matter. Mojigoh said this was a continuation of what he had suggested in his National Budget debate speech in Parliament recently.

In his speech he proposed that a Turtle and Marine Ecosystem Centre (TUMEC) be set up in Pulau Gaya to create awareness and provide education to the public on the species that is nearly extinct.

With the establishment of TUMEC it would further strengthen the existing cooperation between Asean countries as well as the Memoranda of Understanding sealed with the Indiana Ocean Turtle body to protect turtles from total extinction.

He said all quarters including Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Mardi, Federal Fisheries Department, Natural Resources, Science and Technology Ministry and Federal Tourism authority should pool their resources to develop the island.

"It is more of creating awareness among the people and interest of the visitors especially foreign tourists to the Park," he said, adding that the Federal Tourism Minister is expected to declare open the centre and that Sepanggar MP, Eric Majimbun had expressed readiness to be involved as well.

Mojigoh recalled that as a youngster he was among those who were not aware of the status of the turtle species and that he used to be a turtle eggs gatherer with his father at Putatan beach.

"There was no awareness campaign then but after a while I saw the picture of fishermen cutting open a turtle to get its eggs in the middle of the sea and leaving it to die, I think this is cruel," he said.

He said the various Sahabat Alam Malaysia Club in schools here would be involved in the Save Our Turtle campaign that would also see, among others billboards with displays of news cuttings from the Daily Express on turtle deaths and illegal selling of eggs.

"We are also concerned with the claims that turtle eggs being sold in the market in Terengganu were supplied from Sabah by an agent," he said.

Reports of foreign fishermen caught encroaching into Sabah waters with turtles among the catches found in their trawlers were not uncommon, he said, adding that the people, especially the younger generation needs to be educated on the need to protect turtles.

In fact, in the Auditor-General's Report, it was also mentioned that this (protection of turtles) was among aspects not being attended to," he said.

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