SEATRU is an acronym for the Sea Turtle Research Unit of Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT). The unit had its beginnings in 1984 when research on the leatherback turtles of Rantau Abang was first initiated by the then Faculty of Fisheries and Marine Science, Universiti Pertanian Malaysia.
Sea turtle research at UMT has since developed into a multi-disciplinary program aimed at studying all aspects of the biology and ecology of sea turtles, threats to their survival, and how they can be managed in order to restore the various species to a stable population level. The vital information resulting from these studies have formed the basis for many important recommendations made by SEATRU to relevant government agencies for the conservation of sea turtles, especially within the state of Terengganu.
Besides carrying out conservation-oriented research on sea turtles, SEATRU is also directly involved in education of university students at the undergraduate and graduate levels, school children, and the public at large on the conservation of sea turtles. It also undertakes consultancy projects which are directly or indirectly related to sea turtles.
Chagar Hutang is an isolated beach in the northern most part of Redang Island. It is one of the three nesting beaches in Redang Island that have been declared as turtle sanctuary in 2005. Universiti MalaysiaTerengganu started the Sea Turtle Conservation Project at Chagar Hutang since 1993. This project was founded by Dr. Chan Eng Heng and Assoc. Prof. Liew Hock Chark.
In the early years, all nests incubated at Chagar Hutang were purchased from licensed egg collectors at RM120 per nest. A total of RM500,000 were spent (1993-2004) in the purchase alone. In order to support the long-term in situ egg incubation program, nesting and tagging research, the Turtle Research and Conservation Group had introduced outreach programs – the nest and turtle adoption schemes and the volunteer program. The success of this conservation work had been recognised by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) when it elected the former project executants to the Global 500 Roll of Honour in 2001.
In 17 years since the initiation of the project, a total of 5,000 green and 101 hawksbill turtle nests have been protected through the in-situ program. From these a total of 350,000 green and 7,000 hawksbill hatchlings were released to the ocean. Even so, it is too early to determine whether we have increased the population of sea turtles at Redang Island. Through the outreach programs, we are hoping to see some positive changes in the coming generations to protect and conserve sea turtles.