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Endangered Leatherback Turtle Returns To Malaysia After Three Decades

Updated on March 25, 2011

A leatherback turtle made a surprise come back to a Malaysian beach after 32 years. The turtle, known as the Rantau Abang Princess, came back last month to end a long dry spell of turtle landings, which have been uncommon in the state of Terengganu since the eighties.

It was heralded as a miracle by environmentalists and regenerated hopes for the vulnerable species. According to Malaysian Fisheries Department director-general Ahamad Sabki Mahmood, the turtle's return indicated that Rantau Abang beach was being made a turtle nesting place once again. 

Rantau Abang Princess, which hatched in the area in 1978 and was marked on its shell and left flipper, returned at a weight of 1,100 pounds, measuring five feet in length and over three feet wide.   It was released back into the sea on Aug 16, Thursday, tag with a satellite transmitter which will help conservationists to track turtle migration patterns and save the endangered species.

The critically endangered leatherback turtle, is now facing extinction in Malaysia because of overfishing, poaching and pollution.

Rantau Abang beach in Terengganu used to be the nesting place of one of the 7 largest leatherback populations in the world but its population has worsened by more than 99% since the 1960s. 

Biggest of all marine turtles, leatherbacks are also one of the largest living reptiles. They are easy to differentiated by their leathery carapace (shell), contrary to  other turtles which are hard-shelled, and by their long front flippers. Seven ridges run down the length of their white spotted shell.

Leatherbacks are one of the most migratory of all marine turtles. The biggest ever taped leatherback turtle was a male that reached 256 cm long and weighed 916 kg! They can also dive much deeper than any other marine turtle. The deepest dive ever registered for a reptile was by a leatherback to a depth of 1,230 metres. 

Source : AFP News, Tourism Malaysia & WWF Malaysia

Photo Credit : Tourism Malaysia


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    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      This is wonderful news. I'm hoping many will return to the beaches and make a grand comeback. I love turtles!