04 MARINE: Turtles

Turtles, tortoises and terrapins are belong to reptiles of the order Testudines. They have existed on Earth for more than 100 million years. Put it in simple terms, turtles are sea creatures whereas tortoises are land creatures. Terrapins live in sea as well as land. For this writing, I will focus on turtles.

Turtles are endangered marine animals. There are seven species known. Four of the seven species can be found around the world in tropical and subtropical waters whereas another three species are more confined to Atlantic, Australia and Mediterranean respectively. They are:-

  • Kemp’s ridley turtles (Lepidochelys kempii) : it is the rarest species and mainly found in Gulf of Mexico.
  • Flatback turtles (Natator depressus) : mainly found in northern Australia or southern Papua New Guinea continents.
  • Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) : mainly found in Mediterranean continents.

The remaining four species which can be found in Malaysia are:-

  • Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), Penyu Karah/Sisik
    – states: Sabah, Melacca, Terengganu, Johor
  • Olive ridleys turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), Penyu Lipas
    -states: Penang
  • Green turtle (Chelonia mydas), Penyu Agar
    -states: Sabah, Sarawak, Penang, Perak, Pahang, Terengganu, Johor
  • Leatherbacks turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), Penyu Belimbing
    • -states: Terengganu

Source: Internet – Turtle Conservation Centre

There are six stamp issues with specific turtle species printed that had been launched by Pos Malaysia thus far.

  1. National Definitive-Animal series
  2. Marine Life 3rd series
  3. Turtles of Malaysia
  4. International Year of the Reef
  5. Underwater Life
  6. National Definitive-Marine series
  1. National Definitive-Animal series

The first turtle species appeared in Malaysian stamp was Leatherbacks turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) in $1 stamp of 8v third national definitive stamps issued on 4th January 1979. The concordant cancellation is Kuala Terengganu, as this species is only found in Terengganu state.

1979 Animal National Definitive FDC (partial) with MELAKA cancellation.

2. Marine Life 3rd series

Pos Malaysia had issued six series of marine life stamps. The first series on 17th December 1988 followed by second series on 29th June 1989 (Crustaceans), third series on 17th November 1990 (Turtles), fourth series on 21th December 1992 (Corals), fifth series on 10th November 2001 (stamp week) and sixth series on 9th October 2004 (stamp week).

There were four turtles stamps i.e. Leatherbacks turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), Green turtle (Chelonia mydas), Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and Olive ridleys turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), with the stamps’ value of 15cents, 20cents, 40cents and $1 respectively. I supposed this is the only issue with complete four turtles species printed thus far. Of note Olive ridleys turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) is the rarest species and it can be seen in Kerachut Beach Turtle Conservation Centre in Penang.

Marine Life Series III FDC with KL cancellation. Note the Penang Pantai Kerachut Turtle Conservation Centre chop as well as the Department of Fisheries (Penang Branch) chop with the signature of the chiefs. The Pantai Kerachut Turtle Conservation Centre is known for the rare species of Olive ridleys turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea). Courtesy of Mr Daniel Ho.

3. Turtles of Malaysia

This stamp booklet issue consisted of two turtles’ images with same 30cents values in the sheet of ten stamps. The two species were Leatherbacks turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) and Green turtle (Chelonia mydas). It was issued on 26th June 1995.

FDC made of stamp booklet with MELAKA cancellation.

4. International Year of the Reef

On 23th August 1997, International Year of the Reef ’97 was issued. It consisted of 4v stamps (20cents, 30cents, 50cents and RM1) and RM2 Miniature Sheet. Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) was printed in RM2 MS.

Composite FDC with concordant KUCHING, Sarawak cancellation.

5. Underwater Life

It was a long gap until 21th March 2012 when the Underwater Life was issued with 4v stamps (all 60 cents) and RM5 MS. Again, Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) was printed in MS along with other two creatures. Note that Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) is the commonest sea turtles which can be found in few states of our country listed above.

FDC of 4v stamps.
FDC of MS with KL cancellation.

6. National Definitive-Marine series

The eighth national definitive stamps was issued on 18th June 2020 with the topic of Iconic Marine Life. It consisted of 5v stamps and a Miniature Sheet. For the second time (after 1990 Marine Life III series), Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) was printed on RM1.30 stamp as well as RM5 MS.

FDC of 5v stamps. Concordant MASJID TANAH & MELAKA cancellations for the RM1.30 Hawksbill turtle. Courtesy of Mr KY Sum.
FDC of Hawksbill turtle MS with Concordant MASJID TANAH & MELAKA cancellations. Courtesy of Mr KY Sum.

For more information about the turtles in Malaysia, kindly visit World Wildlife Fund of Malaysia website at the link:-


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