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The return of a leatherback turtle at the Rhu Cikgu beach in Rantau Abang has got everyone excited. (File pix)

DUNGUN: The return of a leatherback turtle at the Rhu Cikgu beach in Rantau Abang has got everyone excited.

As this is the first landing of the highly endangered species at the once popular leatherback nesting site since 2010.

The landing was discovered by a traditional turtle egg collector Hasang Husing while combing the beach at about 6am today.

Hasang said he was walking along the beach and saw turtle tracks leading to a site where he discovered a fresh nest but was not sure if it was from the leatherback turtle species.

“The track seemed to have been created by a big and heavy animal. I have not seen such tracks for a long time,” added Hasang who had been collecting turtle eggs for some 30 years.

He alerted the Fisheries Department about the nest and officers from the Rantau Abang Turtle sanctuary who arrived at the nesting site this morning confirmed that it was the nest of a leatherback turtle.

State Fisheries director Zawawi Ali said the leatherback had laid 93 eggs and the animal was expected to return to lay five more times between Sept 19 and 30.

“This is an exciting find as it proved that some of the leatherback turtle hatchlings released some 40 years ago have reached maturity and are returning to the same beach were it they were hatched.

He however cautioned that it is already late in the turtle nesting season.

“We will be monitoring the beach to ensure that the return of this leatherback is not disturbed,” he said adding that his man would be patrolling the beach and protect the nest from predators, including poachers.

Zawawi said the eggs had been retrieved and relocated to the incubating site nearer to the sanctuary and it should hatch in about 60 days.

“The same female is expected to lay some 450 eggs. This is truly exciting since we have not had this opportunity for so many years,” he added.

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