The prevalence and tradition of turtle egg consumption amongst locals may contribute to the eventual extinction of our turtles unless urgent action is taken according to a report by WWF-Malaysia. The report commissioned by WWF-Malaysia and prepared by TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, entitled “Marine Turtle Egg Consumption and Trade in Malaysia”, shows that the market demand for turtle eggs exceeded the supply. It was estimated that a total of 422,000 eggs were traded in Terengganu alone in 2007, indicating a trade volume that is two times higher than the number of green turtle nestings in the state. It has been reported that turtle eggs from outside the state were being sold at markets in Kuala Terengganu.The report aims to provide a better understanding of consumer profiles and to identify the source and trade routes of the eggs to further enhance WWF-Malaysia’s efforts in marine turtle conservation. The study team focused on consumer surveys in Terengganu where turtle egg consumption is widespread and eggs are openly sold in markets, to obtain a more in-depth understanding of turtle egg consumption patterns as well as the profile and perceptions of egg consumers.“One of the contributing factors to the leatherback turtles’ disappearance from our shores is egg consumption. We wouldn’t want the same thing to happen to our green and hawksbill turtles,” said WWF-Malaysia Executive Director/CEO Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma.Out of the 396 households surveyed, 245 (about 61%) are of Malay ethnicity and had consumed turtle eggs before. According to the results of the survey, people who eat turtle eggs come from all walks of life - irrespective of gender, age groups, professions, educational levels and income levels. The majority of the survey respondents consumed turtle eggs once or twice annually and bought between one to five eggs each time. The consumption of turtle eggs is a family affair with each family member eating one to two eggs at a time. Turtle eggs are sourced from local markets with 91% sourced from Pasar Payang in Kuala Terengganu. Most consumers eat turtle eggs as a “delicacy” and for pleasure and less so as a source of protein or for traditional and medicinal reasons as well as an aphrodisiac, contrary to popular belief. Turtle egg consumers, though aware that turtle populations are declining, believed that consumption would not cause population decline as turtle eggs were still abundant. Nonetheless, a majority of them would stop consuming if they knew that egg consumption would adversely affect the turtle populationIn 2008, the Department of Fisheries launched “The National Plan of Action for Conservation and Management of Sea Turtles in Malaysia” to strengthen sea turtle conservation and management in Malaysia.“All the time and effort spent on doing research and putting together an action plan that is supposed to show results by 2012 will be of little value if action is not taken soon – Malaysia’s sea turtles need our help right now,” said Noorainie Awang Anak, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia’s Senior Programme Officer.It is hoped that the results from this study will contribute towards the key priorities of the action plan which include a national ban on consumption and commercial sale of turtle eggs and other products, as well as enhancing public awareness and facilitating participation of local communities in conservation programmes. However, a national ban on consumption and trade can only be put into effect if there are Federal Laws allowing such an action. This is the reason why WWF-Malaysia is advocating for an amendment to the Federal Constitution that would give the Federal Government jurisdiction over turtles and thereby be allowed to impose such actions. “A change in attitude and behaviour is needed to turn the tide if we want to ensure the survival of turtles,” added Dato’ Dr Sharma.