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Malaysian Sea Turtles

Malaysian Sea turtles

Of the seven species of sea turtles present in the world’s oceans, four nest in Malaysia. All four are listed in the IUCN red data book as endangered.

The leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)

Local name : Penyu belimbing
Shell length : 150 – 180 cm.
Weight           : 300 – 600 kg.
Colour           : Black with white or grey patches.
Food              : Predominantly jellyfish
Range            : Oceanic. Nest in the tropics but moves to temperate waters to feed.

The leatherback turtle is the most unusual and distinctive of all sea turtles. It is so unique that it is placed in its own family, Dermochelydae. It is the only turtle without a hard bony shell. It has instead, a smooth leathery shell which is marked by seven longitudinal ridges. The shell consists of an outer skin with a continuous layer of tiny mosaic bones embedded in a thick layer of oily cartilaginous material. There is so much oil in the carapace that taxidermists take weeks to degrease it. This turtle is also the largest of all sea turtles, being capable of reaching 2 meters in total length and weighing over half a ton. A dead male specimen washed ashore in Wales, U.K., in 1988 weighted 916 kg (2,016 lbs), and measured 291 cm from nose to tail. Average nesting females usually have a shell length of one and a half meters and weigh approximately 300 kg.

The green turtle (Chelonia mydas)

Local name : Penyu agar, Penyu pulau
Shell length : 90 – 110 cm.
Weight           : 110 – 180 kg.
Colour           : Olive-brown to green or black.
Food              : Predominantly seagrass and seaweeds
Range            : Coasts and islands in the tropics.

Locally known in Malaysia as ‘Penyu Agar’ or ‘Penyu Hijau’, the green turtle, Chelonia mydas, is one of the most conspicuous species found circum-globally; with most of their nesting and feeding ground lies in the tropical waters. This species is the largest hard-shelled sea turtles and their common name, ‘Green turtle’ derives from the green fat underneath their shell.

The hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)

Local name : Penyu sisik, Penyu karah
Shell length : 70 – 90 cm.
Weight           : 40 – 90 kg.
Colour           : Combination of dark brown, yellow and brown.
Food              : Predominantly sponges
Range            : Tropical oceans near coral reefs.

Locally known in Malaysia as ‘Penyu Karah’ or ‘Penyu Sisik’. Their common name, hawksbill is derived from the narrow head and tapering ‘beak’.

The olive-ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea)

Local name : Penyu lipas
Shell length : 50 – 70 cm.
Weight           : 30 – 60 kg.
Colour           : Olive brown.

Food              : Crustaceans, molluscs, jellyfish, fish and seagrass

Range            : Coastal tropics.

The Olive Ridley Turtle, also known locally as Penyu Lipas,  is one of the smallest species of sea turtle. It gets its name  from the olive-green colour of its heart-shaped shell.These lightly-built turtles have a high-domed shell.

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