Villagers removing a hook and line on a terrapin.

KEMAMAN: Being a retiree is not an excuse to laze around the house. For Professor Dr Maketab Mohamed, who retired from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Skudai, Johor, two months ago, it is time to give back to society.

And being a former two-term Malaysian Nature Society president from 2010 to 2014, Maketab has his heart set on the environment and matters that threaten the survival of animals, especially those listed under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (ICN) red list as “critically endangered”.

“Southern river terrapins are critically endangered. I consider it important to assist (in the conservation of the species).

“This matter needs greater publicity and awareness to ensure that the public understand the importance of their survival,” said Maketab, who often visited the Turtle Conservation Society in Kampung Pasir Gajah.

He has been helping Dr Chan Pelf Nyok and her husband, Dylan Wang, who funded their research on the landing and nesting trends of the turtles.

Maketab said universities, especially those with biological and marine sciences facilities, should carry out research and conservation projects on the species and suggest ways to protect the animals from extinction.

Professor Dr Maketab Mohamed

“State governments, together with the Wildlife and National Parks Department, can work together to conserve terrapins and turtles. Terrapins are found only in Terengganu, Perak and Kedah.

“Sungai Pahang used to have terrapins. Unfortunately, our two survey trips last year yielded nothing.

“This indicated that terrapins in Sungai Pahang are locally extinct.

“If there are enough funds and manpower, a terrapin conservation centre can be set up in Sungai Pahang near Chenor.

“We can reintroduce adults and hatchlings into the river,” he said, adding that the drastic drop in terrapin landings and nesting at Sungai Kemaman could be an indication of something worse.

He said terrapin researchers had predicted that without serious conservation efforts, terrapins could become extinct in less than 20 years.

“Terrapins are unlike sea turtles. They lay fewer than 40 eggs in a nest. This is unlike green turtles, which can lay more than 60 eggs.

“Taking into account the natural threats to the hatchlings, their survival rate is very low.”

He said extinction could also be caused by habitat loss, poaching of their eggs, and hunting of the animal for its meat.

“As such, education and awareness about terrapins and their habitat, as well as do’s and don’ts, must start at a young age.”