Iconic Sea Turtle - Malaysia's Natural Heritage
Redang Island – A sanctuary for nesting turtles
Malaysia is home to four out of the seven species of marine turtles. No other place in Peninsular Malaysia has the highest rates of sea turtles nesting than Pantai Chagar Hutang in Redang Island, Terengganu. The 350-metre long beach is closed to any tourism or commercial activities in order to retain its natural landscape so that turtles can nest without being disturbed by humans.
Olive Ridley Sea Turtle
Local name: Penyu Lipas (Lepidochelys olivacea)
Shell Length: 50 – 70 cm
Weight: 30 – 60 kg
Colour: Olive brown
Diet: Crustaceans, molluscs, jellyfish, fish and seagrass
Range: Coastal tropics
The endangered olive ridley or Penyu Lipas is the smallest of all marine turtles. These migratory turtles often travel thousands of kilometres between feeding and nesting sites. Very little is known about these turtles in Malaysia.
Leatherback Sea Turtle
Local Name: Penyu Belimbin (Dermochelys coriacea)
Shell Length: 150 – 180 cm
Weight: 300 – 600 kg
Colour: Black with white or grey patches
Diet: Predominantly jellyfish
Range: Oceanic. Nest in the tropics but moves to temperate water for foods
Leatherbacks are one of the most migratory of all marine turtles. The biggest ever recorded 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 recorded for a reptile was by a leatherback to a depth of 1,230 metres.
The critically endangered leatherback turtle or Penyu Belimbing to locals, is now facing extinction in Malaysia. Rantau Abang, Terengganu used to be the nesting home of one of the seven largest leatherback populations in the world but its population has declined by more than 99% since the 1960s.
Green Sea Turtle
Local Name: Penyu Agar / Penyu Pulau (Chelonia mydas)
Shell length: 90 – 110 cm
Weight: 110 – 180 kg
Colour: Olive-brown to green or black
Diet: Predominantly seagrass and seaweeds
Range: Coasts and islands in the tropics
The endangered Green turtle, or Penyu Agar to the locals, is actually black-brown or greenish yellow but is so called because of the greenish colour of their cartilage and fat deposits. The most abundant species in Malaysia, it nests in great numbers on the sandy beaches and islands of Sabah, Sarawak, Terengganu, Pahang, Johor and Perak.
Hawksbill Sea Turtle
Local name: Penyu Sisik / Penyu Karah (Eretmochelys imbricata)
Shell Length: 70 – 90 cm
Weight: 40 – 90 kg
Colour: Combination of dark brown, yellow and brown
Diet: Predominantly sponges
Range: Tropical oceans near coral reefs
Due to man’s taste for beautiful jewellery and ornaments, the hawksbill turtles are now critically endangered. Their thin, flexible and highly coloured shell with elaborate patterns is the sole source of commercial ‘tortoise shell’. Locals know them as Penyu Karah or Penyu Sisik but hawksbills are so named because of their narrow pointed beak reminiscent of a bird of prey.
The largest population of hawksbills is found in the Turtle Islands of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo with an average of 500-600 nests each season. Malacca’s sandy coastline has the second largest population of hawksbills with 200-300 nests per season while Johor and Terengganu have lower numbers.