Celebrating Si Bokko | WWF Malaysia

Celebrating Si Bokko

Posted on 23 June 2018
A hawksbill turtle in Semporna waters.
© WWF-Malaysia / Eric Madeja
Kota Kinabalu: Every year, the world celebrates marine turtles highlighting and honouring the importance of these majestic reptiles that are a key to the marine ecosystem. For World Sea Turtle Day 2018 celebrated on 16 June, Sabah Wildlife Department and WWF-Malaysia share a platform throughout the month of July with a roadshow ‘Si Bokko Kalasahan Ku’, or ‘My lovely turtle’ in English; translated from the Bajau language.

This Semporna-based month-long roadshow kicks off on 26 June, ending on 31 July 2018.

Si Bokko Kalasahan Ku’ is aimed towards five main target audiences: island communities in Semporna, tourists mainly from China, dive operators and schools based in Semporna, and government agencies; focused at three main areas: Semporna islands, the Tawau airport, and in Semporna town.

In honouring the importance of turtles, we wish to highlight the fact that these majestic reptiles face dire threats. In a 2018 report by Sabah Wildlife Department and WWF-Malaysia, 23 turtle direct-take cases were recorded between 2004 and 2017 – this amounted to 835 green and hawksbill turtles, 53kg of meat and 227kg shells. Out of the 23, 12 cases (54.54%) occurred in Semporna.

“This recent report has clearly emphasised to us that there is an urgent need for immediate action for our marine turtles in the Semporna area. This is not to say that the other areas in Sabah will be neglected – our roadshow with WWF-Malaysia is prioritising one of the most documented cases of turtle egg poaching and direct take areas in Sabah. Semporna is a hotspot for turtle poaching and our wildlife and turtles are in immense danger,” said Mr Augustine Tuuga, director of Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD).

Mr Tuuga emphasises that action is needed urgently to save our national heritage.

“If nothing is done, our turtle population will further decline,” he laments.

“We are heartened that the new government has identified strengthening of the department (SWD) as one of their priority in environmental management in Sabah.”

Not only do marine turtles encourage healthy ecosystems, the marine reptile bring benefits to the country’s economy. In healthier and productive marine ecosystems, important species that contribute to the country commercially such as shrimp, lobster, and fish thrive.

Malaysia is immensely lucky to be able to call these reptiles as part of our natural heritage. However, they face grave threats to their survival.

Head of WWF-Malaysia’s Marine Programme, Dr Robecca Jumin explains, “Land conversion threatens coral reefs, which are habitats for marine turtles. Destroyed coral reefs destroys marine turtle homes. In conjunction with International Year of Reef 2018 – a global effort aimed to increase awareness and understanding on the values and threats to coral reefs, and to support related conservation, research and management efforts, it is important to understand the impacts of protecting coral reefs and marine turtles.”

“Protecting coral reefs means protecting marine turtles. In turn, marine turtles play important roles for maintaining healthy marine ecosystems and their survival affects human survival in the long run.”

Green, hawksbill, and olive ridley turtles are totally protected in Sabah under Schedule 1 Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997; where one is not allowed to hunt or possess turtles including its parts, e.g. eggs and its carapace.

Kicking off the month-long celebration during the first week are awareness talks on the importance of turtles and Schedule 1 Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997. Led by SWD and community-led group Wanita Pulau Omadal (WAPO), the activities include installation of signboards and posters by WWF-Malaysia. A booth in the Tawau airport with mascots helps to relay the message of protecting our turtles. The following weeks will consist of more awareness talks and the dissemination of posters in Semporna town to dive operators, schools, government agencies, and restaurants in Semporna.

“By the end of this celebration, it is hoped that there is more awareness amongst the communities in Semporna about the loss of our turtles in Sabah and of the law which totally protects turtles in Sabah. With this awareness, we wish people will stop buying, poaching, and eating turtles, their parts and eggs. It is also hoped that the conservation message will be introduced into our education system,” said Mr Tuuga.

It is important to support and engage with marine turtle conservation projects. We need also to avoid single-use plastic such as straws, plastic utensils, and plastic bags that choke the turtles, as well as increase knowledge and awareness on the importance of reducing human impacts on the ocean. The continued integrity of our biodiversity and environment remains critical for the sustainable development and continued prosperity of the nation.

Together, we can stop the population decline of Malaysia’s iconic natural heritage – marine turtles.

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For more information, please contact:
Kimberly Chung
Senior Communications and Campaigns Officer, Marine Programme, WWF-Malaysia (Sabah office)
Tel: +60 88 262 420, Ext.127
Email: kchung@wwf.org.my
A hawksbill turtle in Semporna waters.
© WWF-Malaysia / Eric Madeja Enlarge
Healthy corals in Semporna waters.
© WWF-Malaysia / Eric Madeja Enlarge
A green turtle feeding on seagrass at Pom-Pom Island, Semporna.
© WWF-Malaysia / Mazidi Abd Ghani Enlarge