2 endangered turtles debut at SEA Aquarium after rescue, rehab

Channel NewsAsia 23 May 17;

SINGAPORE: After more than a year of rehabilitation, two rare rescued turtles joined the SEA Aquarium's marine life collection on Tuesday (May 23), Resorts World Sentosa said in a joint media release with SEA Aquarium.

One of them, a critically endangered male hawksbill turtle nicknamed Hawke, was "in poor condition" when it was found in the sea by a member of the public, SEA Aquarium said. Hawke arrived at the aquarium on Mar 24, 2016.

The turtle, which was estimated to have been between five and eight months old at the time, was believed to have been abandoned by its owner, who had kept it illegally as a pet. It had developed a pyramided carapace - a shell deformity likely attributed to poor nutrition and care.

The other, an endangered green sea turtle that aquarists named Louie, was found in a drain by another member of the public. It was a week-old hatchling that weighed all of 20 grammes when it was handed over to SEA Aquarium on Sep 28, 2015.

Aquarists and the animal health team "spared no effort" in caring for the two young turtles, SEA Aquarium said. These include feeding the turtles species-specific diets, monitoring their growth, measuring their body weights monthly and observing their behaviour with other fish.

Both turtles were gradually moved from separate, smaller homes to larger habitats where they could be slowly introduced to other species.

Louie has grown to almost 12 kilogrammes - still a fraction of the 200 kilogrammes that green sea turtles can grow to.

Hawke now tips the scales at a healthy 17 kilogrammes. Hawksbill turtles can weigh as much as 70 kilogrammes, the aquarium said.

The two turtles are now housed at the aquarium's Shipwreck Habitat, with species such as the pompano, threadfin trevally and shark ray, which are deemed compatible with the turtles. This provides inter-species interaction which is not only good for the animals, but allows visitors to witness the dynamics of marine life, the aquarium said.

The aquarium added that it is open to exploring the possibility of releasing the turtles in the future, in partnership with the authorities, but added that this "requires careful consideration, taking into account key concerns including the suitability of wild habitats and poaching, which must be thoroughly addressed to ensure their survival in the wild".

Rescued turtles make debut at S.E.A. Aquarium
Abigail Ng WY Straits Times 24 May 17;

When Louie, an endangered green sea turtle, arrived at Resorts World Singapore's S.E.A. Aquarium in September 2015, it measured no more than 5cm and weighed 20g.

More than a year on, it weighs at least 10kg, and yesterday was one of two sea turtles that debuted at the aquarium's Shipwreck Habitat in celebration of World Turtle Day.

Louie was found by a member of the public in a drain, while the other, a critically endangered hawksbill turtle, was found in the sea in poor condition. Named Hawke, it had developed an irreversible shell deformity due to poor nutrition and care.

S.E.A. Aquarium took in both turtles with the permission of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA). In response to queries, AVA said rescued or confiscated animals are sent to Wildlife Reserves Singapore or Resorts World Sentosa while investigations are ongoing. It added that the animals may be absorbed into zoological collections.

But Ms Anbarasi Boopal, deputy chief executive of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, said turtles with no incapacitating injuries or deformities should be released into the wild. Once hatched, sea turtles are independent, she said.

Ms Ria Tan, who runs the wildsingapore.com nature website, noted that wild turtles are commonly found in Singapore waters.

Aquarium curator Akira Yeo said the turtles are presently not suitable for release. "They are still in their juvenile stage, so we will continue to provide care. If a suitable release programme is found, we are happy to work with them."

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