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There is a unique brand of river terrapin that inhabit the River Perak in Malaysia and every year swim along it to lay their eggs at the same spot ...at Bota Kanan. Thanks to man there is pollution, siltation and then the sorry situation whereby the population of the terrapins starts to decrease at an alarming rate and it begins to look as though the batagur baska that are to be found in the northern Malaysian tin-mining state of Perak will become an endangered species.

Perak - Malaysia's silver state - has a great deal of natural beauty, with outcrops of limestone hills, exotic equatorial flora and fauna, and verdant padi fields. As one of the country's most industrialized areas and, as the former center of the tin mining industry, it isn't surprising, however, that some environmental degradation has taken place. Was the destruction of the river terrapins going to be another casualty?

It certainly looked that way until the Perak Parks and Wildlife Protection Department stepped in to buck the trend. The Department set up a terrapin hatchery at Bota Kanan and it now looks as though the batagur baska is going to be saved after all.

The batagur baska is a freshwater turtle or river terrapin, sometimes called tuntong. They inhabit estuaries and tidal reaches of medium and large rivers. They belong to the monotype genera and represent the largest emydid turtle.The river terrapins lay their eggs between November and March.

At this attractive little sanctuary the Warden, and his staff of three, conserve and rear the terrapins in four ponds until they are around two months old before releasing them into the Perak River for the little batagur baska to begin their journey downstream to boost the dwindling population. At any one time there are upwards of several thousands of juveniles at the hatchery awaiting their turn to make their way back along the scenic river that traverses its way through central Perak.

According to keen environmentalist, P.Vigneswarer "…it is a great pity that the work of the sanctuary is not better known to more Malaysians". Still it is gratifying to note that the conservation activities of the Bota Kanan sanctuary are gradually gaining the attention - and the admiration - of a growing number of scholars and wildlife experts. Visitors to the hatchery have come from such far away places as Canada, Germany, the U.K., Australia and the United States and from other regions of Malaysia.

There are no precise figures on the terrapin population of the River Perak but most observers believe that the efforts of the Bota Kanan sanctuary have resulted in the saving of a much underrated species. Much of the work of the Parks and Wildlife Department may be unsung, some of it may not be very spectacular, sometimes it may even appear to be routine but there can be no doubt of its importance in helping to preserve a relatively unique and attractive species of river terrapin for the benefit of future generations in the "silver state" of Malaysia.