Release of captive bred Hawksbill turtle at Big Sister’s Island

Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research was invited to be part of a turtle release event organised by Underwater World Singapore (UWS), in collaboration with the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium (PNPA) of Japan and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of USA on 24 August 2010. Thirteen second-generation Hawksbill Turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) (eight three-yr-old turtles and five one-yr-old turtles) were released off Singapore’s Big Sister’s Islands (Pulau Subar Laut) as part of an effort to study the migratory behaviour of this endangered species of turtles using satellite tracking devices. This is the third time that UWS is releasing sea turtles fitted with satellite tracking devices back into their natural habitat, with previous releases in 2002 and 2006.

 In the morning, a Multidisciplinary Forum titled “Turtles Towards Extinction: How late are we? Is it too late?” to facilitate cross-disciplinary discussions among scientists, students and conservation groups was convened and moderated by the Director of RMBR, Professor Peter Ng. Members of the panel included Dr Tomomi Saito, Chief Officer of the Turtle Breeding and Research Programme at PNPA; Dr George Balazs, Leader of NOAA’s Marine Turtle Research Program; Mr Marc Rice, Director of Hawaii’s Cooperative Sea Turtle Research Program; Assoc Professor Simon Tay, Chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs who specialises in international law and public policy; Professor Leo Tan of NUS and Honorary Member of UWS Educational Advisory Panel; and Mr Anthony Chang, Curator of UWS.

(Image courtesy of Ria Tan)

 The turtles released were born in Japan from first-generation turtles that were donated by UWS to PNPA in 1997 and 2002. Satellite tracking devices were fitted on these turtles with the expertise and technical support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of USA. Details and preliminary results of this collaborative project will be shared at the COP 10 (Tenth Meeting of the Convention of the Parties governing the United Nations Convention of Biological Diversity) the Partnership Project — the Kyoto University International Symposium — Biodiversity, Zoos and Aquariums in September 2010.

(Image courtesy of Jun Lin)

 Gracing this turtle release event was guest-of-honour Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman, Parliamentary Secretary of Ministry of National Development. Along with UWS’ conservation education programme, over 100 guests were present to witness the release. These include some 20 students from CHIJ (Kellock), students from the National University of Singapore, as well as members of PadiAware, Scouts, and Wild Singapore. Prof Ng helped release a turtle with Mr Marc Rice.

(Image courtesy of Ria Tan)

Prof Ng was also interviewed by the Channel 8 news crew on the significance of this turtle release event.

At the jetty, Prof Leo Tan took the opportunity to interact with the students from CHIJ (Kellock), telling them that the turtles might return, perhaps in 20 to 30 years’ time to lay eggs, and they will hopefully be in Singapore to witness this event. The students took the opportunity to have a photo taken with Prof Tan before boarding the ferry to travel back to the mainland.

(Image courtesy of Ria Tan)
By Tan Swee Hee

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