Kuala Lumpur: Malaysians` voracious appetite for turtle eggs could drive the marine creatures to extinction on its shores, conservationists warned on Wednesday.
According to a report by environmental group WWF-Malaysia, hundreds of thousands of turtle eggs are eaten in Malaysia every year, despite campaigns to get them off the menu.
"One of the contributing factors to the leatherback turtles` disappearance from our shores is egg consumption," said WWF-Malaysia executive director Dionysius SK Sharma.
"We wouldn`t want the same thing to happen to our green and hawksbill turtles."
Turtles once arrived in their thousands to lay their eggs on Malaysian beaches, which are collected and sold on markets. But they are now increasingly rare due to poaching and coastal development.
The report, prepared by TRAFFIC Southeast Asia showed that the market demand for turtle eggs exceeded supply.
It estimated that 422,000 eggs were traded in the northeastern state of Terengganu alone in 2007, more than twice the number of green turtle eggs laid in the state, and that eggs were being brought in from outside to meet demand.
Most consumers consider turtle eggs a "delicacy" and eat them for pleasure, not as a source of protein or for reputed medicinal or aphrodisiac effects, the report said.
"A change in attitude and behaviour is needed to turn the tide if we want to ensure the survival of turtles," Sharma said.
Conservationists have urged the government to impose a nationwide ban on the consumption and commercial sale of turtle eggs.
Sharma said that some 10,000 leatherback turtles nested in Terengganu every year in the 1950s but that this had been reduced to just 10 a year at present.