Introduction to Project Orion II

Project Orion II - Rovering with Turtles
is the 4th Scouts of the World Award (SWA) Voluntary Service Project of the SWA Singapore Base.

The 2nd installment of this project will be led by 9 youths from Singapore and they will return to Setiu, Terengganu, where the pioneer team had left their legacy a year ago.

The primary aim of the team would be the conservation of sea turtles, but that would not be their only contribution during the project duration of 26th June to 10th July. The 9 passionate youths will also be involved in mangrove replanting, repair work for the villagers and WWF info centre and English and conservation awareness education for the children.

"Leave the place a little better than you first found it." - Lord Baden Powell

Monday, May 23, 2011

American student on a mission to save terrapins in Malaysia

She has placed trackers on terrapins to determine their habitat, growth, population as well as factors that could lead to their extinction.

American student on a mission to save terrapins in Malaysia

SETIU, Malaysia - An American's passion to save endangered river turtles has led her far from home, all the way to Kampung Mangkok in Penarik here.

Margaret Leigh Perry, a student researcher from North Carolina, said the plight of the turtles, better known as terrapins, had often been her concern.

"I am passionate about turtle conservation, especially the river terrapin, as it is the most endangered in the region.

"That is why I am here in Terengganu, where the number of river terrapins is decreasing," she told The Star yesterday.

Perry, 25, said her nine months in the village had helped her understand the terrapins better as well as spread more awareness among the villagers on activities that might affect the terrapin population.

She has placed trackers on terrapins to determine their habitat, growth, population as well as factors that could lead to their extinction.

"I spend most of my time at the river, researching the terrapins. The villagers love to collect turtle eggs. Some of them eat the eggs while others sell them. Thus, it is important to educate them on the negative effects of their actions," she said.

Staying with a local family, the American popularly known in the village as Meg said the key to conservation was finding a balance between the people's needs and the needs of the environment.

Aside from her research, Perry also teaches English to the local children.

In the midst of it all, she has picked up a bit of Bahasa Malaysia.

"I started with zero Malay to being fluent in words such as tak faham (don't understand) and tak tahu (don't know).

"My favourite word is boleh (can)," she said.

Perry has taken a liking to the food, too, especially lempeng (Malay pancake), which can be eaten with curry or sugar.

"Although we are from opposite sides of the world, people are universal in their traits. Harmony can be seen everywhere," she said.

Perry, who is in the last month of her research, said she was looking forward to going home to see her parents and two younger sisters.

"However, this place and the people will forever remain in my heart," she said.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thursday, January 13, 2011

More male turtles needed

GEORGE TOWN: Penang is trying to hatch more male turtles to mate with females so that the reptiles will not disappear from the island's coastlines.

The Pantai Kerachut Turtle Conservation Sanctuary is working to maintain a breeding ratio of 70 females to 30 males under a programme which began three years ago.

Department licensing and resource protection officer Mansor Yobe said they needed to have more male turtles for the females which come to shore to lay their eggs eight times a year.

"If we don't do this, there may not be any turtles left here in future," he said at the sanctuary at the north-west tip of Penang island.

Besides Green Turtles, the Olive Ridley Turtles are also known to lay their eggs at Pantai Kerachut, Pantai Teluk Kampi, Pantai Teluk Ailing and Pantai Teluk Ketapang on the island's north-west coast.

Mansor said records from 2000 until 2006 showed that close to 100% of all hatchlings at the sanctuary were females.

He said they then started testing various sites by burying the eggs in shaded spots under trees or in cooler areas to try to get more male turtles hatched.

He added that a shaded hatchery was built at a cost of RM16,500 (S$6,348) in 2009 to help determine the gender of the turtles.

"After collecting the eggs from several sites, we placed them in the shaded hatchery where the temperature is about 28.2 degrees Celsius.

"Eggs buried in the sand outside the shaded hatchery will produce females as the temperature there is hotter at 30 degrees Celsius," he said.

He said eggs at the sanctuary were hatched on the beach rather than in a temperature-controlled incubator because research has shown this produced healthier hatchlings.

He said last year, some 5,000 eggs were collected and 70% were successfully hatched.

"We hope to collect the same number this year," he said, adding that the peak period for turtles to lay eggs is between December and August.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Residents up in arms as endangered turtle dies in Bharuch lake

The residents of Bharuch city took out a rally to protest against the forest department and local administration after an endangered turtle died on Friday.

Sources said the turtle — Ganges Soft Shell Turtle, a rare and endangered spieces found only in rivers like Ganga, Mahanadi — allegedly died due to high pollution level in Ratan Talav located in the city.

The residents were miffed as they claimed that in last one month, five such endangered turtles have died and the administration has failed to take any step to prevent it. The procession was cut short after forest department officials intervened.

"We have approached the district collector at least thrice in last one month. Each time, we were told that he would first visit the sit and than talk to us. But today, another turtle was found dead. We had planned to take the procession to the collector office but the forest officials suddenly came in between. They have promised to take some step soon," said Kamlesh Parmar, a city-based activist.

The forest officials, on their part, said they will approach the civic body to clean up the pond, which is home to more than 100 such endangered turtles.

Deputy Conservator of Forest R L Patel told The Indian Express, "The postmortem report confirms that the creature died due to pollution and filth in the pond. We have asked the civic body to clean up the pond."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Traditional hunters keen to help lift turtle numbers

The Sea Turtle Foundation says it is confident turtle numbers will continue to grow, after educating traditional hunters on how to preserve the species.

David Row from the Townsville-based foundation has been visiting southern communities in Papua New Guinea with tips for turtle and dugong conservation.

He says hunters did not previously know a lot about the breading cycle of marine animals.

"Improve their understanding of their lifecycle, for example. When they start to understand, for example, that turtles may not start breeding until they are 40 years old, it really makes them understand the importance of protecting the breeding adults," he said.

Mr Row from says the communities are eager to learn new practices to save marine animal populations.

"Turtles and dugongs certainly provide an important source of protein for them. However, they have recognised that numbers are falling off and they have also recognised the importance of making changes that will help bring those numbers back," he said.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Behind the scenes at turtle hospital

JOY and heartbreak swim side by side at Reef HQ Aquarium's fledgling turtle hospital in Townsville.

Despite the best of intentions and staff skills, not all injured and sick turtles brought in will survive to be rehabilitated and released into the wild.

On a behind-the-scenes tour of the multi-million-dollar facility in North Queensland recently, staff were caring for five green sea turtles.

It was the morning after the night before for Reef HQ Aquarium director Fred Nucifora when he met our media group bright and early.

He had had only a few hours sleep after attending the North Queensland Tourism Awards at Townsville's Jupiters Casino, where the attraction won three from three award nominations (Major Tourist Attraction, Ecotourism and New Tourism Development for the turtle hospital).

But his unmistakable passion for his work, the Great Barrier Reef and the attraction's educational value shone through regardless.

Like a proud father, he introduced us to the sick turtles. We met “Bianca”, “Esmerelda”, “Porty” and “Timmy”, who were responding well to treatment.

Bianca, aged between 10 and 15, arrived at the hospital on July 11 from nearby Pallarenda Beach, where a collapsed lung was causing her buoyancy problems.

With antibiotics and a high-protein diet of squid and fish, she was almost back to normal and far from camera shy, lapping up all the human attention.

Fred said Reef HQ Aquarium was seeking permission to keep Bianca, who also suffered from the genetic condition leucism, which gave her a light-coloured shell, almost like an albino.

Rather than release her off Pallarenda Beach, where she would not only stand out like a beacon to predators but also be susceptible to sun legions, staff wanted to use Bianca for educational purposes.

Like great aunts, our group clucked around her and the other turtles like newborns.

Finally, we said goodbye and headed up a few steps to the last section of the hospital.

And then we saw her.

With a 114cm shell the size of a large oval coffee table, the 70-year-old turtle had jammed herself in beside the water inlet pipe, as if trying to hide from danger. When we realised something was drastically wrong, our collective hearts went out to this beautiful, helpless creature.

Like many of the turtles who come through the doors of the turtle hospital, she had floating syndrome.

And that's bad when you're a turtle. You want to dive down to the bottom of the sea floor to eat your food source, seagrass, but you can't stay down. You are forced to swim around the surface, where you are easy prey for sharks.

“We see a lot of it (floating syndrome), particularly after the winter period,” Fred said.

“Like humans, they get colds, pneumonia, and lung infections. We see lots of juveniles (with floating syndrome), not just old turtles.”

Fred said staff refrained from naming a “patient” until they were confident the creature could be rehabilitated. And this one would need long-term therapy and a little tender loving care before she reached that stage.

Since being opened by the then Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett in August last year, the turtle hospital has welcomed 30,000 visitors. The facility also acts as an invaluable teaching facility for James Cook University's new veterinary clinic, with students helping out with duties such as blood analysis.

Typically, four or five turtles are looked after at any one time but, as Fred said, “we sort of find it hard to say no” and up to 10 turtles could be accommodated.

Anyone finding sick or injured sea turtles should call the Marine Animal Stranding Hotline on 1300 130 372.

Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Services make an initial assessment and either has to euthanase the animal if deemed unlikely to survive, or bring it to the hospital for treatment and rehabilitation. The hospital also has its own four-wheel drive turtle ambulance for emergencies.

While Cairns had its own turtle rehabilitation centre, demand was growing in Townsville, Fred said, partly due to greater community awareness of the plight of all turtles.

He said the hospital planned to open a second wing soon.

The turtle hospital was the final stop on our special behind-the-scenes tour, which can be booked at the world's largest living coral reef aquarium.

This was my second tour of the attraction, having visited with my family nearly 15 years ago.

The fascinating underwater world – home to 200 of the 1500 fish species of the Great Barrier Reef – brought back happy memories of snorkelling all over the Pacific, but what impressed me most this time was how nature could be so meticulously presented.

Fred outlined the painstaking processes involved including coral collection, monitoring, propagating, cultivating and “planting”.

To create the facility 23 years ago, 700 tonnes of limestone rock and 20 tonnes of coral sand had to be trucked in, with water barged in from the reef. A total of 200,000 litres of water must be replenished each month from the tidal creek next to the complex, which is fed by Cleveland Bay. The attraction has no roof, allowing natural sunlight to stream into the coral, and a wave machine on the right-hand wall creates the wave action of a reef break.

While Reef HQ Aquarium had a permit to collect coral for display, Fred said the long-term goal was to become self-sufficient coral “gardeners”.

FOOTNOTE: Bianca has since been released into the 750,000-litre predator tank to stretch her flippers and grow.


Reef HQ is open from 9.30am to 5pm, seven days a week, every day of the year except Christmas Day.

The Townsville aquarium at 2-68 Flinders Street welcomes 200,000 visitors a year.

Phone 4750 0800.


Donations can be made to the turtle hospital: visit the website or email