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Turtles has appeared on earth for more than 100 million years, to the age of dinosaurs, with the different that these living dinosaurs are still surviving through the decades, despite that environment on earth has been changing throughout the this period. Studies reports show that it is possible for a turtle to live for hundreds years of time, and this explains why the Chinese society treats turtles as a symbol of longevity.

Turtles are categorized according to its physical appearance, behaviors and nesting site. To your surprise, sex of hatchings is determined by the temperature of the surrounding sand, which a female turtle lays its eggs. A warm nest will result in mostly female hatchings while males are mostly come from a cooler nest.

There are seven recognized species of sea turtle in the world, which are divided into two families, Dermochelydae and Cheloniidae.  The only species that is categorized in the Dermochelydae family is the Leatherback turtle The rest six species, i.e. Green turtle, Olive Ridley turtle, Hawksbill turtle, Loggerhead, Kemp’s Ridley turtle and Flatback turtle are all belong to the Cheloniidae family. Among these seven species, four choose to nest in Malaysia beaches.

Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)

The name Leatherback turtle derives from its smooth leathery carapace or shell. Because of its star fruit-like leathery soft shell, the locals also call Leatherback‘Penyu Belimbing’. An adult Leatherback can reach a length of 2 meters and weigh up to 900 kg. It is the largest turtle in the world.

Although leatherback breeds in the tropics, they spend much of their life foraging in very cold seas. Their body temperature raises several degrees above that of their environment. The powerful front flippers of these turtles enable them to swim for a long periods of time in the sea. They regularly dive to depth of over 400 meters with a recorded maximum depth of 1200 meters. Leatherbacks are excellent swimmers and divers, indeed.

In Malaysia, Leatherback nests only in beaches in Terengganu with Rantau Abang famous to be the major nesting concentration. 

Leatherback Turtle

Turtle lay eggs

Green turtle (Chelonia mydas)

Green turtle or Penyu agar is called by this name because of its greenish soft body and jelly like substance. Unfortunately this special feature has also made them a very popular food in some restaurants. Green turtles are carnivorous in the first few days of their lives and subsequently become herbivorous. They feed on seaweeds and algae. An adult Green turtle can reach the length of 110cm and weight of 150kg. Female Green turtles can lay 140 eggs per nesting and each takes 50-70 days for incubation.

To date, Green turtles are among the most widely spread turtles in Malaysia waters with the nesting site can be found in Pulau Redang  Pulau Perhentian and Cherating in east coast, Pantai Remis in west coast of Peninsular Malaysia and some other beaches in west Malaysia.

Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)

The Hawksbill turtle or Penyu Karah derives it names from the hawk-like beak. Hawksbill turtle has hard attractive dark brown shell or shell with yellow and brown overlapping scales. This beautiful shell makes Hawksbill turtle a hunting target for the tortoise-shell jewelry trading which lead them to endangering. Adult Hawksbill has a carapace of 70-90cm and weighted up to 60kg.

Beaches in Pulau Gulisaan of Sabah is the major nesting site of Hawksbill turtle found in South East Asian region. However, this beautiful turtle can also been found in Pulau Redang of Terengganu. 

Olive Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea)

Another species, which is found in Malaysia waters is the Olive Ridley turtle. Olive Ridley turtle is the smallest of all the turtle found in the world where an adult Olive Ridley is only 60-65cm in length and 35-40kg in weight. It is also called Penyu Lipas by the locals. Just like the name implies, Olive Ridley turtle has olive-green or gray colour shell. This turtle feeds mainly on shrimps, jellyfish, crabs and snails.

Although nesting of Olive Ridley in Malaysia is not concentrated and sparse, some nesting can still be found in Pulau Redang and beaches in Kelantan. 


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