Turtles are cute reptiles, and since I love these animals, during my last visit to Kuantan, Pahang province, Malaysia, I stopped at the Cherating Turtle Sanctuary to see how they care of this endangered species.
An early research informed me that turtles scientific name is Testudines or Chelonii. Turtles are the oldest ever living reptile group, with the largest specimen of chelonian being the leatherback sea-turtle, or Dermochelys coriacea, a turtle living in either fresh water or sea that can reach 2mt in length and weight over 900kg!
Tortoise are turtles that dwell in rivers and fresh water streams, much smaller in size than the sea turtles. Their body is usually covered with shells that develop from their fibs, and that function as a shield. The only things you ever see on their living body are the head and the legs.
Even though turtles are cold-blooded, like other reptiles, they lay eggs on earth and breathe air. This unique creature is believed to have night vision and intelligence as they can navigate mazes better than white rats. Their diet is dependent on the environment they live in, and consists mostly of meat and plants.
Turtle in Malaysian language is Penyu; there are 4 main species of turtles in my country: the Green-Chelion Mydas, the Hawksbill-Eretmochelys imbricata, the Leatherback-Dermochelys coriacea and the Olive Ridley-Lepidochelys olivacea. Pahang has 5 major landing and nesting areas for these sea turtles: Pantai Chendor, Cherating, Tioman, Sri Buat Island and Rompin Beach. The most common turtle found in these areas is the Green-Chelion Mydas, which usually land on the shore between April and September.
But back to my visit now: the Cherating Turtle Sanctuary was established in 1972 on an land plot of 0.33 hectare as a turtle hatchery in an effort to protect this species; it was opened to public in 1998 and it is run by the Department of Fisheries. I immediately felt the center is the perfect place for turtles, being next to the sea and in an area where turtles usually come to lay eggs.
The main purpose of this center, apart from being a tourist attraction, is the collection of turtle eggs and the organizing of hatching programs. The hatcheries can be easily seen as they are located near the beach.
A turtle’s eggs incubation period is around 50 to 60 days, and the eggs usually hatch at night. In order to prevent baby turtles being killed by other predators, they are immediately released to sea by the center. The period for a turtle to become mature is around 20 to 50 years, and only one in 1000 turtles is believed to live that long.
While at the exhibition area, I collected some info from the several boards: I discovered that Cherating turtle sanctuary carries out a few research programs on turtles, as well as educating the public on awareness and on the importance of conserving these species. I was also happy to learn that those caught on capturing turtles are liable to a heavy fine and to a term of imprisonment not exceeding two years, or both, under the Fisheries Act. I hope this is effecting in stopping ‘human predators’.
Walking around the centre, I saw plenty of turtles in pond, turtles that are part of the center’s hatching program. They look sooooo cute, especially their babies. There are plenty of information boards and other ocean species on display, for the pleasure of the general public, dugongs and species of fish endemic to these waters. Over all, a pleasure time spent at an amazing place!
Cherating turtle sanctuary has a souvenir shop and can provide camping facilities for those who want to experience turtle’s hatchlings program. Price range for pitching a tent is around RM30.
Cherating turtle sanctuary is open to public from Tuesday to Sunday, from 9 am to 5.30 pm, with lunch hours being observed, and 3 hours dedicated to prayer every Friday. Admission is FREE, and donation (in the box provided) is appreciated.
To get there, from Kuantan take a bus, a taxi or drive, following directions towards Kemamam/Kuala Terengganu. The sanctuary is located just next to Asia’s First Club Med in Cherating, Pahang, 50 Kilometres from Kuantan city. For more information on Cherating turtle sanctuary, you can email email@example.com.