The beaches of Rantau Abang attract not only tourists but also the famous leatherback turtles.
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In its heyday, Rantau Abang was a bustling tourist destination, as anyone who wanted to catch a glimpse of the beautiful leatherback turtle would head there. Busloads of tourists would arrive during the nesting season in time to see and experience this one of a kind event. These beautiful creatures of the sea would amazingly find their way back to the beaches of Rantau Abang twice a year to lay their precious eggs. After they were done, the turtles would cover up their nests with sand and slowly head back towards the sea, to feed and regain their strength for their long journeys ahead.
As the years passed, the number of tourists increased steadily as there were still turtles returning to Rantau Abang. Intrigued by this fascinating ritual, people began encroaching on the nesting grounds. The bonfires and makeshift camps built by the visitors disturbed the turtles' nesting process. Other visitors would engage in acts that traumatised the turtles, including shining light at the turtles' faces and riding on the turtles' backs. These acts, along with poaching of the eggs for consumption, eventually led to a decline in the number of turtles appearing at Rantau Abang. Though conservation efforts were carried out by the government to educate the society of the dire consequences of their actions, it did not improve things. Severely traumatised by the actions from the public, the turtles instinctively felt deterred from returning to Rantau Abang. By late 90s, the total number of nestings recorded were only ten compared to the thousands that was recorded in 1950s.
Today, more turtle sanctuaries are being built along the beaches of Rantau Abang by conservationists who are eager to restore the leatherback turtle's population. Since turtle eggs are considered a delicacy, collecting the eggs reduces the chance of them being stolen by poachers. Once the turtles are done laying their eggs, these eggs are collected and transferred to the sanctuaries, where they will be monitored under controlled conditions. Breeding the eggs under certain conditions can help to predetermine their sex, which allows conservationists to control the number of female and male turtles hatched. Though there may be some who are against human intervention, in this case it is necessary as it ensures that these little turtles have a higher chance of survival compared to being left to fend for themselves. Although there are very few turtle sightings at Rantau Abang nowadays, tourists still go there to enjoy the beach. Its warm sandy beaches makes it a great place for afternoon picnics and fun gatherings for all.