Engaging Local Community towards Turtle Conservation | WWF Malaysia

Engaging Local Community towards Turtle Conservation

WWF-Malaysia’s staff conducting a survey with fishermen at coastal beaches. rel=
WWF-Malaysia’s staff conducting a survey with fishermen at coastal beaches.
© WWF-Malaysia / Min Min LAU

Turtles returning to my village

Awareness and participation of the local community in conservation efforts are key to saving the hawksbills. The programme ‘Penyu Balik ke Kampung Halamanku’ (Turtles returning to my Village) is the underlying theme used to engage the community in our turtle conservation efforts in Malacca. It was initiated in 2006 and key stakeholders include the village committee members, fishermen, chalet operators and schools.

A number of activities have been identified and conducted through the close co-operation of the village level communities – Jawatankuasa Keselamatan dan Kemajuan Kampung (JKKK), fishermen’s association and schools located near the nesting areas.

Engaging the community leaders
Through meetings, talks and informal discussions, the local community are now more aware of the threats faced by hawksbills and how critically endangered they are. The project has received favourable response and strong support from the local Assemblyman, Penghulu’s office of Kuala Linggi and Masjid Tanah/Tanjung Bidara and the JKKK involved.

Creating awareness amongst the local community
To better understand the community’s perception of turtles and bring them onboard conservation efforts, WWF-Malaysia conducted a study on how locals perceive the tradition of eating turtle eggs and egg collection.

WWF-Malaysia is working through the JKKK to spread the conservation message at village level.  Activities being implemented include:-
  • Talks and presentations for the JKKK from key nesting areas encouraging them to spread the message, urge locals to stop eating turtle eggs and report illegal egg collection to the authorities.
  • Adopt-a-Turtle programme where the JKKK pledges to adopt hawksbills tagged in their area and be responsible for safeguarding these turtles and their nesting areas until they return to nest in a few years time.
  • Beach Clean-Ups at prime nesting rookeries with support from the JKKK, government agencies and volunteers during nesting season.

Creating awareness in schools
A series of activities under the theme ‘Penyu Balik ke Kampung Halamanku’ was and is being conducted targeting at local schoolchildren.
  • School talks at both primary and secondary schools in the vicinity of nesting beaches
  • Adopt-a-Turtle programme has been conducted and will continue this year. In conjunction with the programme a turtle naming competition was held for hawksbills which has been tagged and adopted by the schools.
  • Turtle camps for schools which has adopted hawksbills for both primary and secondary schools

Creating awareness amongst the fishermen
A study was conducted to determine the extent of turtle mortality caused by fishing gear. This turtle-fishery interaction study also gauged fishermen’s awareness of the issue and their perception towards hawksbills as well as their acceptance of conservation efforts.

Initial findings indicate that fishermen are quite aware of the adverse effect some fishing gear has on turtles and that egg collection without a license is illegal.

A majority of them are willing to report cases of turtle stranding, use of illegal fishing gear, poaching, etc. but did not know which authority to report to. WWF-Malaysia, together with the Malacca State Department of Fisheries, put up turtle stranding flyers at boat landing areas to facilitate reporting by the community.