Thursday, May 31, 2012

Malaysian Turtle Coaster

The good with the bad.  In Malaysia, leatherback turtles are "virtually extinct", according to The Star

While it is terribly sad about the leatherback, it really is, there's some thin hope for others.  The roller coaster of good news and bad news in marine conservation just whipsawed us once again, unfortunately.

The leatherback is truly a magnificent beast.  The largest of the sea turtles, these guys are the lumbering, lovable heavyweights who can knock the scales to over a thousand pounds and stretch up to seven feet long. 

They stroke their powerful flippers through thousands of miles of ocean.  Their dark green skin is like a distant memory of a pulse-racing peer into the vast depths. 

So what happened in Malaysia?  I'd almost like to say it was a lethal combination of entrenched ocean slights like pollution, habitat loss, and bycatch (and I'm sure these had impacts too), but in this case it was rampant over consumption by people, mixed with "old thinking" about the bounty of nature. 

On several Malaysian islands, the turtle eggs are eaten by people, many people.  When you take the eggs, you're hitting a species right where it counts.  You take most if not all the eggs, how do expect there to be more next time?

"Leatherback eggs laid in Terengganu dropped from 10,000 clutches in 1955 to about 3,000 in the year 1965. In 1999, only 2% of that number was found and by 2002, only three female leatherbacks reportedly landed on Rantau Abang," said the Star.

The focus is on other turtles.  "According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List, green turtles are endangered, olive Ridleys are vulnerable, and hawksbills are critically endangered," said the Star.

Although the adjectives are not exactly reassuring, it's where we can find some hope, so I'll take it.

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