Libaran Island: A model for turtle conservation and community empowerment
19 August 2023
By Wartawan Nabalu News
SANDAKAN: A visit by the Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai to Libaran Island has revealed the remarkable progress made by the Walai Penyu Conservation Park in protecting endangered turtles and empowering the local community.
The conservation park, founded and managed by Alexander Yee, has been safeguarding the nesting and hatching sites of endangered turtle species since 2010. It has also fostered a cleaner island environment and instilled a sense of responsibility among the islanders, prompting them to actively maintain their surroundings free from debris.
Joniston, who is also the Chairman of Sabah Tourism Board (STB), praised the crucial role of the conservation park in preserving such delicate ecosystems for future generations. He also highlighted the immense potential of Libaran Island and its community as a distinctive tourism product.
“I am genuinely impressed by the community’s raw craftsmanship in producing handicrafts using ‘mengkuang’ (screw pine leaves) and recycled materials, as well as boat making. The island community stands as educators, imparting the significance of turtle preservation and marine conservation due to their profound connection with the land and sea,” he said.
Joniston’s visit reflects STB’s ongoing commitment to promoting and supporting activities that benefit both the environment and local communities. He emphasised that by investing in community-driven conservation efforts, Sabah can set an inspiring example for responsible tourism and ecological preservation.
Meanwhile, Yee shared his visionary plans to further integrate the local community into the conservation landscape. His intention is to gradually entrust the reins of the Walai Penyu Conservation Programme to the community, empowering them to independently champion and sustain turtle conservation initiatives.
“We believe in empowering the community to become the stewards of their own environment. It is a step towards ensuring the long-term success of both marine turtle conservation and the well-being of the local people,” he said.