Leatherback Turtles in Rantau Abang, Terengganu, are Extinct

Rantau Abang is a beach located about 60km from Kuala Terengganu, with the nearest town being Dungun. The beach is known for being a main nesting beach for turtles. It is also one of the six nesting beaches around the world for leatherback turtles. May to September each year will bring visitors and tourists who must wait patiently and quietly to spot them. However, recently there have been no turtle sightings which means they are considered extinct to the area!

Leatherback turtles would usually wait for a full moon and high tide before making their way to the beach. Due to the steep slopes, mother turtles could conserve energy while looking for a good spot. Also the sand granules are large which helps to make the sand a more comfortable temperature for the mother turtles.

What happened

Unfortunately, the number of leatherback turtles have declined by 99.9%. The annual nesting density is about four nests per year compared to over 10,000 in the 1950s. Because of these numbers, the population of leatherback turtles can be considered as effectively extinct.

Why this happened

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Why has this happened? Well there are various factors involved such as human intervention, poaching, and pollution. Visitors would sometimes disturb the poor turtles, disregarding their shy personalities. Some would also harvest the eggs to be eaten or sold to make profit. Coastal development is also a contributing factor to the difficulties faced by the leatherback turtles.

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Another factor is sea pollution and fishing practices that make the water unsuitable for the turtles to swim. It may have also contributed to deaths of these turtles as we have seen videos and pictures showing the effects of plastic in the water. Turtles can get caught in it and choke or eat small pieces of plastic and die.

This is a very unfortunate circumstance and shows how much damage our ecosystem is taking. We must take precautions to make sure nothing like this happens again. It is up to us to take care of the ecosystem and all that belong to it.