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 Local

Beach cleaning to save turtles on Libaran island

23rd March, 2016

By JAMES LEONG

SANDAKAN: With the recent press coverage on the turtle conservation work by FOSTER (Friends Of Sea Turtles Education & Research) on Libaran island, a group of teachers from SMK Batu Sapi and SMK Ulu Sugut decided to get down to the ground and help out.

They contacted FOSTER and booked themselves for a 3-day 2-night volunteer programme and entered Libaran island on a bright sunny morning last weekend, taking a boat from the Sandakan Yacht Club.

On arrival, they were given an orientation of the island and the turtle conservation programme by Honorary Wildlife Warden Harun Haris who has been working on the turtle conservation programme since its inception in 2012.

The group of enthusiastic teachers then proceeded for lunch before cleaning a 200m stretch of the beach. In early March, FOSTER re-launched a year-long community beach cleaning project whereby local Libaran villagers are paid through sponsorship to clean the beach of Libaran on a year-long basis. The teachers helped out on the areas which were not covered by the community project.

By late afternoon, the teachers had completed cleaning the 200m stretch of the beach. Harun then showed the teachers around Taman Hadiah, the turtle hatchery set-up on Libaran island and explaining to them about the hatchery and the operation of the turtle conservation programme. They also learnt how to set up a nest for the turtle in the event that they have to transfer the eggs.

After dinner, they were treated to a video show on the lifecycle of a turtle.

Lights went out early that evening as the teachers waited around for a turtle to come ashore to lay eggs. A turtle actually came ashore at about 2am, recced the land and returned to the ocean without laying eggs. The next day, the teachers continued with their cleaning work which also included getting the “turtle hospital” ready. This is at sector one of the beach area and by far, it is an area with the most turtle landings. They get the place “ready” by clearing the sand bank and removing any grass from it.

That evening, FOSTER president, Alexander Yee entered Libaran island and joined them for the evening dinner. After dinner, he shared with them the challenges he has faced during the setting up of the hatchery and the future plans. The teachers were responsive with many asking a lot of questions.

Group leader for this trip Fazidah Abdul Pirus of SMK Batu Sapi said that she felt blessed to have the opportunity to join the programme.

“This is my first experience cleaning up a beach and learning about turtle hatching. By doing the activities, I believed that we have contributed something, if not much to our environment”, she said.

“Also, it is an interesting experience to share with my students. Most of my students never heard of Libaran island and know very little about the conservation programme,” Fazidah added.

She said it was important to expose the future generation to turtle conservation programme and that the students should have an opportunity to participate in such programme.

Sulaiman Jaafar, a keen photographer was glad to be with the group and while there, he managed to capture many memorable moments with his camera and vowed to return again.

Yee was happy that schools were getting to know the conservation programme on Libaran island.

“I hope that more schools will be aware of what we do and join us. It is important that future generations are aware of the importance of protecting and conserving our environment and wildlife or marine species. Human beings cannot live by themselves and they need to learn to live together (with the other species),” said Yee.

The teachers left for home after two nights on Libaran island, enriched by the experiences. They vowed to return again.

   
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