Semporna Celebrates Sea Turtle Week with Fun-filled Activities
On 18 June, representatives from WWF-Malaysia and volunteer group, Green Semporna, went a-visiting 10 schools here, dressed as “Penyu Sekawan”, signifying the four turtle species found in Semporna, namely Green turtle, Hawksbill, Olive Ridley, and Leatherback. The visit was to encourage the students to participate in a competition to create their own turtle replica from recycled materials.
Their effort was successful. Five secondary schools took part in the competition. Their colourful creative exhibits, equipped with key messages on turtles, were displayed and judged at the opening of the Turtle Exhibition at the Semporna Library on 19 June. The three-day exhibition, jointly organized by WWF-Malaysia, Sabah State Library and Semporna District Education Office, was officiated by the Assistant District Officer of Semporna, Encik Suhaime bin Ejip.
Winners of the competition were champion SMK Datuk Panglima Abdullah, 1st runner-up SMK Tagasan and 2nd runner-up SMK Agama Tun Sakaran. These teams will have the opportunity to take part in a telematch to be held at the closing ceremony on 22 June.
Besides turtle replica-making, visitors to the exhibition had fun having their face painted with images of marine life. Wanita Pulau Omadal, a local community group from Omadal Island, set up a booth to sell their handicrafts made from pandanus leaves. Proceeds of the sale would be used to support conservation efforts in the Semporna Priority Conservation Area.
Volunteer group, Green Semporna, was also present to sign on visitors, especially students to be members of the group. Posters on turtles were displayed in the hall to educate visitors on the importance of these endangered marine creatures to Semporna’s ecosystem.
Star attraction of the exhibition was none other than the life-size Green turtle statue, fondly named ‘Si Bokko Kalasahan Ku’, which in Bajau means “My Lovely Turtle”. More than 100 pledges were written on it as visitors to the exhibition penned down their heart’s call to save these endangered marine treasures. Si Bokko Kalasahaan Ku will remain a fixture at the Semporna Library.
”It is important to run the sea turtle protection programme in Semporna, not only because the nesting and foraging turtle population is significant, but also sea turtles are key attractions in this area for tourists from all over the world. The income from tourism – including diving activities – is estimated to be RM37.8 million annually*, thus presenting a great opportunity for Semporna, and also, Sabah. It is necessary in terms of conservation, and also in terms of livelihood, to move forward toward an improved protection of sea turtles for sustainable future,” said WWF-Malaysia’s Sulu-Sulawesi Ecoregion Programme Manager, Robecca Jumin.
WWF-Malaysia, in collaboration with various partners, has been conducting programmes on sea turtles since 2001, and started specifically in Semporna in 2009 to protect these vulnerable creatures from extinction. In collaboration with Sabah Wildlife Department and local resorts, WWF-Malaysia in Semporna facilitates long-term protection of the species and their habitats. Between June 2006 to December 2012, 785 and 171 Green turtle and Hawksbill nests respectively were documented at six northeast islands of Semporna, namely Boheyan, Kulapuan, Mataking, Pandanan, Pom-Pom and Timba-Timba. However, threats continue to prevail in the area, including egg-poaching, destruction and degradation of their habitats, and presence of natural predators.
*Data resource: Bee Hong Yeo - Conservation Costs and Economic Valuation of Recreational Benefits - Experience from the Semporna Priority Conservation Area, Sabah, Malaysia, 2012.
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For more information:
Alexa Antal, Communication Manager, WWF-Malaysia (Sabah Office)
Tel: +6088-262420 Email: email@example.com
Yeoh Lin Lin, Head of Communications, WWF-Malaysia
Tel: +603-78033772 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org