Sea turtles have been exploited at unsustainable rates globally. In Malaysia, their populations have faced serious declines because of diverse anthropogenic stressors including turtle egg consumption. Redang Island, off the northeast coast of Peninsular Malaysia, is an important rookery for green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) in Southeast Asia. The local community has depended on turtle eggs as a food and livelihood source for decades. Owing to the precipitous decline in sea turtles, the main nesting beaches became legally protected in 2007. Some turtle egg consumption continues despite the protection measures and long-term awareness raising. In our study, we assess the prevalence, motivations, demographic factors, and perceptions influencing turtle egg consumption and conservation. Through semi-structured interviews, we surveyed 73 respondents in Redang village. The interviews show that turtle egg consumption has decreased since the initiation of protection measures, making the eggs expensive and difficult to access. Using binary logistic regression, we found that the respondents’ education level and occupation were significant predictors. Education level was negatively correlated with age. People with higher levels of education (younger people) were less likely to eat turtle eggs, possibly on account of changing cultural beliefs and taste preferences, as well as increasing awareness. Those working in the tourism industry were less likely to consume eggs. The growth in tourism has served as an alternative to livelihoods that were dependent on the consumptive use of natural resources such as fishing and turtle egg collection. Further, tourism has catalyzed a shift from consumptive to nonconsumptive uses of sea turtles. Many locals perceived the protection of beaches as important, without which they claimed that turtle populations would go extinct. This research shows that addressing sea turtle conservation requires a multi-targeted approach of regulating sea turtle egg collection, providing economic alternatives such as tourism and long-term awareness raising.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
First and foremost, we are grateful to the local participants of Redang Island for contributing their time and knowledge to this research. This study was supported by the Erasmus Mundus Master Course in Tropical Biodiversity and Ecosystems-TROPIMUNDO through a thesis grant and by the Sea Turtle Research Unit (SEATRU) c/o Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT). Published with the support of the University Foundation of Belgium. M. P. is supported by the Belgian National Science Foundation-FNRS (Grant number 1139620F). F. D. G. and J. H. were supported by the Belgian National Science Foundation Project “Understanding the discursive & practical dynamics of sustainability and its assessment in complex social-ecological systems-SASES” (FNRS-PDR, T.0262.18).
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- Behaviour change
- Human-sea turtle interactions
- Local livelihoods
- Sea turtle eggs
- Social-ecological systems
- South China Sea
- Wildlife Consumption