Community based Turtle Conservation in Ma' Daerah

Ma' Daerah beach, Terengganu / ©: WWF-Malaysia/Rahayu Zulkifli
Ma' Daerah beach, Terengganu
© WWF-Malaysia/Rahayu Zulkifli

Treasury in a rookery

In a little known haven in Terengganu, with 1.7 km of beach and 70 hectares of flat sandy plains is Ma’ Daerah. This turtle rookery is tucked away in the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia between the towns of Kerteh and Paka. The Ma’ Daerah Turtle Sanctuary, in the district of Kemaman, lies within the Paka-Kerteh rookery and has always been an important turtle nesting beach for all four species of marine turtles found in Malaysia.

However, due to rampant coastal development within the past 30 years, the number of nesting turtles within the rookery have reduced significantly. Ma' Daerah's existence as a turtle nesting haven is now critical.

In June 1999, the Department of Fisheries Malaysia, BP and WWF-Malaysia decided to turn Ma’ Daerah into a model turtle conservation centre in Malaysia. Apart from turtle hatchery management and monitoring of nesting females, other activities at this haven for turtle nesting include education and awareness especially for the local schoolchildren and community. This was made possible with annual funding provided by BP and NOKIA.

School children from Kerteh and the surrounding areas enjoy regular education and awareness activities as well as Kids’ Camps. These activities were later widened to include the local community living within the nearby Paka, Kerteh and Kemasek areas. Ma’ Daerah beach will be gazetted as a turtle sanctuary, while the surrounding Bukit Labohan has been proposed as a State park.