Organisation: Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia (TCSM) Project title: Elevating the survival prospects of Critically Endangered Southern River Terrapins (Batagur affinis) in Malaysia Location: Terengganu, Malaysia Project date: November 2021 – April 2023 (ongoing) Species: Southern River Terrapin Batagur affinis
Organisation: Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia (TCSM)
Project title: Elevating the survival prospects of Critically Endangered Southern River Terrapins (Batagur affinis) in Malaysia
Location: Terengganu, Malaysia
Project date: November 2021 – April 2023 (ongoing)
Species: Southern River Terrapin Batagur affinis
Southern River Terrapins were once common throughout major rivers in Peninsular Malaysia, where they are locally known as “tuntung”. Records indicate that the species was heavily exploited as a source of protein during World War 2 and, populations have suffered a continuous decline due to chronic collection and consumption of eggs, which are considered a delicacy. Entanglement in discarded fishing gear, as well as the loss and degradation of critical nesting habitat due to sand mining further contribute to the species’ decline.
Villagers living near the Kemaman River in Terengganu have been collecting and consuming Southern River Terrapin eggs for decades, with little or no recruitment into the river. As females take approximately 18-22 years to reach sexual maturity, a long-term conservation project in Kemaman was established by Turtle Conservation Society Malaysia (TCSM) in 2011 with the aim of restoring the wild population of Southern River Terrapins.
This project aims to elevate the survival prospects of the species by enhancing reproductive success of wild Southern River Terrapin with a focus on collecting eggs for incubation, hatching and head-starting, as well as tagging and releasing healthy individuals with post-release monitoring to assess survival rates. The TCSM team also engages and recruits local villagers who formerly collected eggs, now known as Terrapin Guardians, to be a part of their conservation team. In addition, the team also removes abandoned fishing gear during routine surveys as part of their efforts to conserve wild populations of Southern River Terrapins.
“This river terrapin conservation project is important because we believe that Malaysia harbours the most viable populations for this critically endangered species. The ASAP funding will enable us to secure terrapin eggs for incubation, headstart the hatchlings and subsequently release them, as well as to monitor their survival after they are released.”
Pelf-Nyok Chen, Executive Director, Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia
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Photo credit: Pelf Nyok Chen