Turtles Returned to the Sea

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) released three green turtles, comprising two juveniles and an adult, and a juvenile hawksbill turtle in the southeastern waters of Hong Kong yesterday (June 23 2014).

The juvenile green turtles and juvenile hawksbill turtle were found by members of the public and staff members of the AFCD on Clear Water Bay Second Beach and Campers’ Beach in Sai Kung and Yan Chau Tong between October 2012 and May this year.

After an initial check-up by the AFCD, the turtles were taken to Ocean Park (OPHK) for a thorough veterinary assessment. Since then, they have been looked after at OPHK with constant monitoring and veterinary care.

The adult green turtle had been kept by OPHK since 2002. It was among the hatchlings artificially incubated from a batch of eggs collected in Sham Wan on Lamma Island in 2001. Due to a slight deformity found in its shell, it had been looked after by OPHK since then.

Current weights of the juvenile turtles ranged from 4.05 to 12.85 kg and their shells were from 35 to 47cm in length, while the adult turtle weighed 76.5 kg and its shell was 79cm. All of them were in good condition, indicating that they were ready to be returned to the sea. The AFCD is thankful to the public for their immediate reports, and the veterinarians and aquarium staff of OPHK for their efforts in taking care of these sea turtles.

Before returning them to the sea, the AFCD tagged each turtle with a microchip and Inconel tags for future identification, and attached a satellite transmitter to its back. By tracing their oceanic movements and locating their feeding grounds, the AFCD can collect data for formulating appropriate conservation measures and share findings with various conservation authorities. This will be conducive to the effective protection of the species among nations.

The green turtle and hawksbill turtle are globally endangered and critically endangered species respectively. Members of the public are urged to report any sighting of sea turtles to the department via 1823 to help protect them. The AFCD will continue its efforts in sea turtle conservation through monitoring, habitat management and educational activities.

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 hawksbill turtle is relatively rare and the green turtle is to date the only species known to nest locally.

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