The terrapin nesting season in the Kemaman River this year began on the 7th February and ended on the 11th March 2013. Despite stretching for more than 30 days, nesting activities were significantly reduced (compared to last year) due to the tail-end of the monsoon experienced in the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia. The Malaysian Meteorological Department reported that the East Coast states and Johor received between 300% and 800% of precipitation in February. As a result, the terrapin nesting bank in Kg. Pasir Gajah was submerged for about 7 days in the month.
Nevertheless, we have managed to secure a total of 461 eggs from two villages along the Kemaman River this year — 369 eggs from Kg. Pasir Gajah and 92 eggs from Kg. Tok Kapor.
In addition to inserting a microchip and drilling a small hole on the marginal scute for identification purposes, we have also assigned an alphabet to each of the post-nesting female terrapins. Returning terrapins that had an alphabet on their carapaces need not be brought back to the campsite for processing.
It is also our pleasure to have Dr. Gerald Kuchling from the University of Western Australia with us at the nesting bank for a week. Dr. Kuchling is a well-known turtle reproductive biologist and we have invited him to perform some ultrasound scans on our post-nesting female terrapins.
While some terrapin hatchlings have started to emerge, most of the eggs are still being incubated in both villages. All newly-emerged hatchlings are given a number (for identification purposes) and are weighed and measured. To date, we have processed more than 110 terrapin hatchlings from both villages.
I would like to record my sincere appreciation to:
- The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and Turtle Conservation Fund for supporting the research projects in both villages.
- Dr. Gerald Kuchling from University of Western Australia for joining us and performing the ultrasound scans of the post-nesting female terrapins.
- Andrew Walde of Turtle Survival Alliance for advice on marking the post-nesting river terrapins.
- The “Terrapin Gang” in Kg. Pasir Gajah — Wazir, Zul, Dollah, Nasir, Perik and Din for their dedication towards the project and for assuring me that it was OK to have fewer nests (and eggs) this year.
- Anuar and Lan for securing the terrapin eggs from Kg. Tok Kapor.
- My Mum, Lai Kow Lian, for being my assistant throughout the entire nesting season.
P/S: This post is cross-posted on the TCS website.
The one bit about traveling that I REALLY don’t get, especially on international flights, is the fact that we are prohibited from bringing along our drinking water and any other liquid-based toiletries, which (ironically) can be purchased right at the departure lounge!
After we have cleared immigration, we would have to pass a security check, where our hand luggage is checked and scanned. In most airports, we’d be required to remove our laptops/tablets/mobile phones and place them into a tray. And in some stricter airports (like those in the US), we’d be required to remove our belts and shoes too.
What boggles me isn’t all that. I know that’s a standard procedure to ensure that we do not have, say, a Swiss Army knife or equivalent in our hand luggage. What I don’t understand is that we are NOT allowed to bring drinking water along!
The airport security personnel would either ask us to finish our bottle of water, or if it was a mineral water bottle, to trash it.
And right after we have cleared security, we proceed to the departure lounge and the FIRST thing we see is a couple of convenience stores that sell, guess what, bottled water!
On our trip to Hanoi recently, I forgot that I had a brand new tube of 200g Colgate in my handbag (don’t ask), and needless to say, it was confiscated by the security personnel and trashed right away. I even tried to reason with him that it was for 4 persons! And once we got to the departure lounge, my Mum bought another tube of toothpaste from a convenience store, without a hassle.
So what is the rationale behind confiscating our drinking water and toothpaste if these items could be easily purchased later? Anybody knows?
Gosh, time passes by very quickly when you’re busy, doesn’t it? I haven’t been able to write a blog post since the year started. In fact, I have been on the move so much, the longest time I have spent in any ONE place was about 30 days!
A lot had happened in the past three months. My youngest maternal aunt passed away on the fourth day of the New Year. Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia (TCS), the NGO that I co-founded, had its second AGM. This second AGM was a lot more fun and casual compared to our first AGM because most of our members have been involved, first-hand, in the activities that TCS carries out, and are familiar with us Committee Members.
In February, I was back in Ipoh for Chinese New Year, and almost immediately after, I returned to Kemaman for my second field season by the banks of the Kemaman River (you may read about my Ph.D. project here).
On the sixth day of Chinese New Year, I was involved in a car accident. I never did recall how it happened, but the good news is that I escaped unhurt.
In March, we released 272 river terrapins into the Kemaman River, and many of our friends from Penang, KL/PJ, Kuantan, Kuala Terengganu and Kemaman participated in the release. In an effort to raise funds for TCS, we also put all 272 terrapins up for adoption, and guess what? All the terrapins were “adopted!” Here’s a short video taken on the day of the release: