After more than two years of rehabilitation under the care of the curatorial and animal health teams of S.E.A. Aquarium at Resorts World Sentosa, the aquarium released two rescued sea turtles into the waters around Singapore on 19 June in hopes that they breed and increase their populations in the wild.
With support and assistance from the National Parks Board (NParks), aquarists from S.E.A. Aquarium released two threatened marine species – “Hawke” the hawksbill turtle returned to the waters of Sisters’ Islands Marine Park while “Louie” the green sea turtle to the waters of Pulau Semakau.
Hawke and Louie were tagged and microchipped so they can be identified should they return to Singapore’s shores in the future. Both species are native to Singapore and are listed as “Critically Endangered” and “Endangered” respectively in the IUCN* Red List of Threatened Species.
Hawke and Louie was released from a boat at about 10.50am and 12.05pm respectively. Both started swimming immediately in the water and disappeared from sight within seconds. Following the release, Louie was later spotted swimming near the same boat with its head out of the water, as though it was bidding farewell to its caretakers. The waters of Sisters’ Islands Marine Park and Pulau Semakau were chosen in consultation with NParks.
Preparing for the Release
To prepare the turtles for their wild journey, Hawke and Louie were gradually moved from back-of-house areas to larger habitats in S.E.A. Aquarium to encourage exploration and interaction with other compatible marine life. These included the Shipwreck Habitat that is home to the pompano, shark ray and a wide variety of snappers.
In addition, the aquarists have been feeding the turtles a diet similar to those found in the wild such as sea jellies, squids and prawns. Prior to their release, S.E.A. Aquarium’s animal health team conducted a thorough veterinary examination which included a full blood profile, weight and length measurement – all of which indicated they were healthy and suitable for release.
About Hawke and Louie
Hawke and Louie made their official debut during World Turtle Day last year, and were the first sea turtles to join S.E.A. Aquarium’s marine life collection. During their stay at the aquarium, both turtles have brought great joy to guests and were excellent animal ambassadors, helping to shed light on the plight of their wild population.
Louie, the green sea turtle, was only one week old when it was handed over to S.E.A. Aquarium on 28 September 2015 with the permission of the authorities from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA). It was found by a member of the public in a drain. Weighing only 20 grammes when it first arrived at the aquarium, Louie has since grown to approximately 61 centimetres in length and weighs 21.5 kilogrammes.
Hawke, the male hawksbill turtle, weighed 800 grammes when it first arrived at the aquarium and now measures 59 centimetres and weighs 23 kilogrammes. He spots a slightly pyramided carapace – a shell deformity likely attributed to poor nutrition and care during his early years – and is believed to be kept illegally as a pet.
In addition to bringing the turtles closer to guests for public education, the aquarium’s conservation group, Guardians of the S.E.A.A., recently conducted a sharing session by turtle specialist Mark Hamann as part of its speaker series for members.
Hamann is part of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Marine Turtle Specialist Group – the global authority on marine turtle research and conservation. He shared findings on the biological status of marine turtles, and how technology can advance conservation initiatives.
About Sea Turtles
There are seven different species of sea turtles: green, hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley, olive ridley, leatherback, loggerhead and flatback. Of the seven species, six** are considered threatened according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Worldwide, sea turtles face many threats, primarily from humans, including injuries from boat propellers, entanglement in fishing nets, plastic pollution and poaching for eggs, meat, skin and shells.
*IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature
**Flatbacks are currently not listed as threatened in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species due to insufficient data collection
Photo credits: Resorts World Sentosa