A couple of weeks ago, Jaymi alerted us to the return of green turtles to Malaysian beaches. Threatened by poaching and habitat destruction, initiatives such as hatcheries and stricter conservation measures might help these turtles bounce back.
Now, there's even more cause for celebration as an even rarer beauty makes a surprising comeback: a leatherback turtle, dubbed "Puteri Rantau Abang" or Rantau Abang Princess, has shown up last week on one of Malaysia's beaches of the same name, after a 32-year absence.The largest of all sea turtles, as a species the leatherback has been around for 75 million years. The northern state of Terengganu, where the Rantau Abang beach is located, is Malaysia's sole nesting place for the endangered leatherback, which used to come in the thousands to lay their eggs before overfishing, poaching and pollution decimated their numbers.
Satellite turtle tracking
According to The Montreal Gazette:
The Puteri Rantau Abang, which was hatched in the area in 1978 and marked on its shell and left flipper, returned at a weight of 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds), measuring 1.5 metres (five feet) in length and 1.16 metres wide.
It was released back into the sea on Thursday, carrying a satellite transmitter which will help conservationists track turtle migration patterns.
"It is a miracle that leatherback turtles are making a comeback to this area," said Malaysian Fisheries Department director-general Ahamad Sabki Mahmood. [..] "We expect Puteri Rantau Abang to head for Vietnam and Japan before heading to the Pacific."
Worldwide, there's still a lot left to be understood about sea turtle migrations, though we know that the largest nesting area for leatherbacks is in Gabon, Africa. So even with this astonishing event, there's still much to be done to help protect sea turtles in the future. Malaysian officials are hoping that these amazing creatures will return to nest the coming weeks, so we'll post further developments as they come.
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