Habitat use by green turtles (Chelonia mydas) nesting in Peninsular Malaysia: local and regional conservation implications
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Context. Many green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) populations are declining worldwide owing to their susceptibility to human impacts in the marine environment. Identifying the habitats used throughout different lifecycle stages is therefore important for managing the interactions between turtles and humans. Aims. To identify the habitat utilisation of a C. mydas nesting population in Peninsular Malaysia during breeding, inter-nesting, migration and foraging lifecycle stages. Methods. Satellite telemetry was used to track the movement of three C. mydas nesting females and one adult male from the Ma'Daerah rookery (Peninsular Malaysia). Key results. The male and female turtles remained within 30 kmof the nesting beach during the breeding and inter-nesting periods, which includes habitat beyond the 'no trawl zone' designed to protect turtles in this area. Following the breeding season, the tracked turtles migrated up to 1955 km to four different foraging grounds in Vietnam, Indonesia, Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo Malaysia. During foraging, turtles occupied areas threatened by human activities such as fishing and pollution. Conclusions. The habitats used by the Ma'Daerah C. mydas population during breeding are outside current local protection zones and extend into unprotected international waters during migration and foraging. Implications. Identification of habitats used by C. mydas populations is a critical element of management and conservation of this endangered, migratory species. Our study highlights the need to increase offshore protection around Ma'Daerah during the nesting season. Furthermore, this study has identified the countries within South-east Asia that Malaysia must cooperate with to ensure effective management of this C. mydas population. This information is particularly relevant to sea turtle conservation and management in regions like South-east Asia, where many coastal countries occupy a small geographical area.
Wildlife and Habitat Management