On Saturday (9/1/2016) morning, a dead juvenile green turtle was found dead and entangled in a fishing net near Pui O Wan on the south of Lantau Island.
The turtle was not yet mature, and its shell measured about 60 cm in length. A necropsy performed by the agriculture, fisheries and conservation department (AFCD) found nothing abnormal. Officials were unable to determine the animal’s sex.
Iain Brymer, a 49-year-old Expat found the dead turtle near a rocky shore about a kilometre into paddling his outrigger canoe from Pui O Wan to Chi Ma Wan Peninsula.
On Saturday (24 Oct), the lifeless body of a green turtle was spotted on a beach at Pak Lap village, Ming Pao Daily reported.
The turtle’s body was said to have been dragged by stray dogs and its stomach mauled. An examination revealed that the stomach was full of litter.
The trash found inside the turtle, which was about 40-50 centimeters long, included nylon string and plastic bags.
It was the first time that evidence has been found in Hong Kong of green turtles consuming marine litter the report cited the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) as saying.
After looking at the pictures of the turtle’s body, Chong Dee-hwa, the founder of the Hong Kong Ichthyological Society, believes the green turtle was a female aged around 10 years.
Patrick Yeung, project manager of the Coastal Watch Project under the WWF, said the case can be taken as evidence that sea turtles in Hong Kong are eating a lot of trash, which is a worrying situation.
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department was quoted as saying that it has been informed about the case and that it will send an officer to look into the matter.
The green turtle is a protected species in Hong Kong. The beach area in Sham Wan on Lamma Island and nearby shallow waters is one of the last nesting sites of the highly endangered green turtles of southern China.
Since 1999, the area was being closed to the public from June to October every year to enable the turtles to carry out their nesting activities.
A wider restricted area in southern Lamma would keep out the noisy junk parties that threaten the nesting site of rare creatures
It’s a sunny September day and half a dozen junks and pleasure boats are anchored in a scenic inlet on southern Lamma Island.
House music is booming and banana boat-tugging speedboats zip across the bay, while those with the energy make the 50-metre swim to shore – unknowingly committing an illegal act by frolicking on the sandy shores of Sham Wan beach.
The beach is one of the few regular nesting sites for endangered green sea turtles in southern China and is a restricted area during the breeding season between June and October. It was designated a site of special scientific interest in 1999.
Illegal entry is liable to a maximum fine of HK$50,000, but that’s only if nature wardens are able to stop such violations.
Scientists and green groups want the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department to ramp up protection efforts by expanding the 0.5-hectare restricted zone to the entire bay to keep out junk parties.
A study by the Eco-Education and Resources Centre between 2013 and 2015 recorded anywhere between 12 and 17 boats anchored in the bay at weekends. Average noise levels went as high as 80 decibels, similar to a police siren, in some parts of the bay.
Green turtles are known for their migratory behaviour and loyalty to feeding sites and nesting grounds. Tracking efforts show they usually swim to Wanshan Archipelago, Fujian waters, the Pratas Islands, the Spratly Islands and the Philippines after visiting Hong Kong.
“Nesting sea turtles are easily affected by human activity,” said ERC science manager Dr Michelle Cheung Ma-shan.
“If a turtle is put off from approaching the beach, it will be forced to lay its eggs underwater, where they will die.”
There have already been notable drops over the years. Between 1998 and 2006, there were 14 records of nesting turtles in Sham Wan. But only two have been documented since 2006, with the last sighting in 2012.
Floating markers similar to ones used in marine parks could be set up to demarcate the entire bay as a protected area.
The ultimate goal is to establish a marine park in hopes that strengthened conservation efforts can bring back sea turtles in greater numbers, says Ken Ching See-ho, the ERC’s founder and director.
“The first step is to expand the restricted area under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance.”
Cheung said nature wardens should be patrolling the beach to keep people out, but their field studies showed they were only present about “60 to 70 per cent of the time”.
Ching said the department could look to successful examples of turtle protection areas overseas, such as the Sandakan Turtle Island Park in Sabah, Malaysia, and a protected area in Taiwan’s Penghu Islands.
Green Power chief executive Dr Man Chi-sam said Hong Kong’s efforts at turtle conservation were “very behind” and “very passive”. “[The findings] also reflect the low public awareness and understanding of this species in Hong Kong,” he said.
A department spokesman said regular patrols were conducted in the area to control unauthorised entry and to monitor the nesting activities of green turtles. “We will step up patrols and put up more warning signs to alert the public not to enter during the restricted period.”
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) released two juvenile green turtles (Chelonia mydas) in the southeastern waters of Hong Kong yesterday (September 21).
The turtles were found by members of the public at the Ma Wan Public Pier and Victoria Harbour in September 2013 and July this year. After an initial check-up by the AFCD, the turtles were taken to Ocean Park Hong Kong (OPHK) for veterinary assessment and have since been looked after at OPHK.
They weighed 8.4 kilograms and 26kg and measured about 42 and 60 cm in shell length. Both were in good condition, indicating that they were ready to be returned to sea.
Before the release into the sea, the AFCD tagged them with a microchip and Inconel tags for future identification and attached satellite transmitters to their shells. Tracking their movements and feeding grounds provides the AFCD with valuable data to formulate appropriate conservation measures and it can then share its findings with other conservation authorities for better conservation of sea turtles.
Green sea turtles are a globally endangered species. Members of the public are urged to report any sighting of sea turtles to the department by calling 1823 to help protect them.
In Hong Kong, all sea turtle species are protected under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance (Cap 170) and the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance (Cap 586). Of the five sea turtle species found in Hong Kong waters, the green turtle is to date the only species known to nest locally.
The SCMP reported on Saturday (14/3/15) that a green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) was discovered on Sheung Sze Wan beach in Clear Water Bay Saturday. The animal appeared to have breathing difficulties.
David Gething, a local vet who helped transport the animal said “It was breathing very, very heavily and had bubbles coming from its nose, which suggests it has fluid in its chest.”
The reptile was picked up by SPCA staff and taken to Ocean Park.
Green sea turtles are known to have occurred and nested in Hong Kong in the past – as shown by such names as Turtle Cove – but have become very rare with Sham Wan on Lamma Island being one of the last remaining nesting sites.
Did you know that large, man-eating crocodiles used to roam throughout across coastal southern China? Historical records indicate they ranged from Vietnam all the way up to the lower Minjiang River in present day Fujian province and even to the Penghu Islands of Taiwan. As you might have guessed that range also includes the lower Pearl River and present day Hong Kong and Macau.
Pui Pui-Hong Kong Reptilian Celebrity
On the 2nd of November 2003 a saltwater crocodile was spotted in the Shan Pui River (山貝河) near Yuen Long and caused a media frenzy in HK. For several weeks Australian crocodile hunter John Lever tried unsuccessful to capture it and months of effort on the part of mainland Chinese experts also failed. Finally almost 7 months later on the 10th of June 2004 Hong Kong’s own AFCD’s conservation officers captured the crocodile after it wandered into a trap laid by the department. The 4-year old female crocodile’s measured 1.5m and weighed 14 kg and belonged the species Crocodylus porosus – the Saltwater crocodile or saltie. That is the same species that frequently makes headlines for killing humans (mostly tourists that ignore the eagerly advice) in Australia’s Northern Territory! Saltwater crocodile is one of the largest reptiles in the world. A mature male can reach 6 to 7 metres in length whereas female can reach 2.5 to 3 metres. Young saltwater crocodile feeds on insects, amphibians, small reptiles and fishes. Adults feed on large animals like buffalo! Wild saltwater crocodile is widely distributed throughout Asian Pacific from coastal India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia to Northwest Australia and Papua New Guinea.
By August 2004 a public naming competition was held before the animal was named “Pui Pui”. “Pui Pui” is a transliteration of the Chinese characters 貝貝 in the crocodile’s Chinese name, which is a pun indicating that it came from Shan Pui River and is the apple of the public’s eye. Although no one knows where the crocodile came from, it is suspected that she might be an illegal pet escaped from their owner’s home or was dumped into the river after she had grown too big.
Saltwater Crocodiles in China?
Records of saltwater crocodiles in China come primarily from the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) through to Song Dynasty (960 AD – 1279 AD); during this time period large crocodiles (presumably saltwater crocodiles) apparently preyed on both humans and livestock within the region. But the saltwater crocodile population decreased severely following the Song Dynasty.
The Chinese words/characters jiao or jiaolong anciently named a four-legged water dragon creature which may be identified as both “alligator” and “crocodile” . The “Dragons and Snakes” section of the (1578 CE) Bencao Gangmu – an ancient Chinese Medical Textbook – differentiates between a jiaolong (蛟龍) “Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)” and tolong (鼉龍) “Chinese Alligator, (Alligator sinensis)“. Most early references describe the jiaolong as living in rivers – which fits both “Chinese alligator” and “Saltwater crocodile” – and spending the tropical wet season in freshwater rivers and swamps. Comparing maximum lengths of 8 meters and 1.5 meters for this crocodile and alligator, respectively, “Saltwater crocodile” seems more consistent with descriptions of jiao dragons reaching lengths of several zhang (丈)”- (1 zhang = approximately 3.3 meters)”. Early texts often mention capturing jiao. For example the (ca. 111 CE) Hanshu records the catching of a jiao 蛟 in 106 BCE. So these may be historical but cryptic references to Saltwater Crocodiles in China. Jialong, incidentally, is also the name of China’s deep-sea submersible.
The most recent records of the saltwater crocodile within China comes from a record in Guangxi province from the 19th Century and some bone fragments found in Hong Kong in 1922. Although I tried my best to find any information on the 1922 bone fragments, it turned up nothing (if anyone has any information on this and can help, please leave a comment!). It appears likely that the species became extinct in all of China well over a century ago and already dissapeared from most of its Chinese habitat many centuries ago. A sharp increase in the human population in the region about 600 years ago and the widespread destruction of habitat that followed is likely to blame for their disappearance.
But Pui Pui was by no means the last appearance of a large crocodilian in Hong Kong:
In 2012 , a 1.2-meter-long crocodile was found abandoned in an aquarium at a refuse-collection station in Tai Po. This was a abandoned pet, though.
In 2014 a man living along the coastal Siu Lam area in Hong Kong’s Tuen Mun district said he spotted a five-foot-long crocodile at the waters near his villa but unfortunately he could not get his camera in time and later searches by the police failed to find the animal. A cleaning worker whom the police spoke to also said that a security guard told her that a crocodile-like creature appeared at the beach by the housing estate two days earlier, but it was gone when both of them went to check. As a result several public beaches including Golden Beach, Cafeteria Old Beach and Castle Peak Beach were temporarily shut.
What happened to Pui Pui?
Three days after its capture the crocodile was moved to Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden (KFBG) where it had access to open-air enclosures, ponds, shelters and natural settings that were more suitable for healthy growth and where vets could monitor it. It then spent the first 3 months in quarantine before moving it into an open-air enclosure. Initially it refused to eat.
In 2006 Pui Pui was moved again to the newly built Hong Kong Wetlands Park in Tin Shui Wai. There she has a 72-square-metre outdoor enclosure with pool area, landscaped and equipped with infra-red heaters, heat pads and a weighing scale.
The general public got its first glimpse of Pui Pui exploring its outdoor enclosure in the Hong Kong Wetland Park in September 2006. At that time Pui Pui had grown to 1.75 m I. Length and 19.5 kg in weight. Now Pui Pui is about 15 years old, and according to the latest information (February 2015) from the AFCD it now measures 2.46 m in length and weights about 58.5 kg! You can see her for yourself at the HK Wetlands Park where she will be likely basking in the sun or feeding on fresh fish and chicken.
Pui Pui’s Fame
In December 2004 Alan Jefferies and Liang Yue wrote a bilingual children’s book based on Pui Pui’s story called “The Crocodile Who Wanted To Be Famous” with illustrations by Mariko Jesse. The story is about a television-loving crocodile named Crafty that swims from his riverside village to find fame in the big city. His arrival is front-page news all around the world, but once there, he begins to question what he really wants.