SANDAKAN: Nestled on the serene Libaran Island, the Walai Penyu Conservation Park continues to make remarkable progress in turtle protection and community empowerment.
Assistant Tourism, Culture, and Environment Minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai made a recent visit to the island to witness firsthand the impactful synergy between the conservation park and the local community.
Present were Walai Penyu Conservation Park founder and managing director Alexander Yee, as well as officers from the Ministry and Sabah Tourism Board.
Joniston, who is also chairman of the Sabah Tourism Board, highlighted the crucial role of protecting endangered turtle species that frequent Libaran shores and 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 added.
Joniston’s visit reflects the Sabah Tourism Board’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.
Since its establishment in 2010, the Walai Penyu Conservation Park has played a pivotal role in safeguarding the nesting and hatching sites of endangered turtle species.
Moreover, their unwavering commitment has fostered a cleaner island environment and instilled a sense of responsibility among the islanders, prompting them to actively maintain their surroundings free from debris.