It was a turtle-y awesome farewell

  • Nation
  • Friday, 25 Oct 2019

BALIK PULAU: A loggerhead turtle is now back to its globe-trotting ways, two months after it was rescued by fishermen when it got snared in an abandoned trawler’s net.

It was released out to sea by the Fisheries Department yesterday, but not before a “farewell party” was held, attended by kindergarten kids, environmental activists, state assemblymen and Penangites who gathered to wish the turtle bon voyage.

When the goodbyes were done, they let it swim out to the sea from the Pasir Belanda Beach in Teluk Kumbar near here.

The turtle was rescued by fishermen near Pulau Kendi, a rocky isle 4km south of Penang island, on Sept 7 after it got trapped in a net.

It was too exhausted to swim even after being freed from the net, so the fishermen sent it to the Fisheries Department.

State Fisheries director Noraisyah Abu Bakar said the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) was not native to Malaysia.

This is believed to be the first time a loggerhead turtle was seen here.

She said that this particular turtle was likely drawn to Pulau Kendi due to the abundance of food there.

“The Fisheries Department placed many artificial reefs there. Loggerhead turtles typically eat bottom-dwelling invertebrates which love the submerged reefs.

“This turtle could have wandered here in search of food, ” she said after releasing the turtle.

Noraisyah said the species is declared endangered and is native in the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, but not in Malaysia.

“The turtle weighs more than 60kg now and can eventually grow to 450kg. She is mature and is of age to lay eggs.

“Loggerhead turtles mature when they turn 17 and between the ages of 17 and 33, they are at their peak of fertility.

“After that, they slow down and their life expectancy is between 47 and 67 years, ” she said.

This reddish brown turtle measures 111cm in length and has a large head measuring 17cm, which is how the species got the name “loggerhead”.

Noraisyah said the turtle enjoyed a diet of mostly kembong fish and supplements during her stay in Tunku Abdul Rahman Aquarium in Batu Maung, which is also a turtle rescue centre.

“We did not find any external injuries on the turtle and we suspect that she was so weak when rescued because of the stress of being tangled in the trawler’s net, ” she said.

Noraisyah said her officers would try and monitor the activity of the turtle.

“We think it may head to Pulau Kendi again. If it is not fit to swim back, we will rehabilitate it, ” she said.

She urged anglers and fishermen to report any sightings of turtles stuck in nets or appearing to be unwell in Penang to her department (04-657 2777) immediately.

“We must understand that the sea is their home and the environment is fragile for them. We must look out for them and protect them, ” she said, adding that plastic bags, which look like jellyfish, is among the turtles’ greatest dangers because they tend to swallow them and become fatally constipated.

The loggerhead is the largest hard-shelled turtle and is carnivorous, feeding mostly on shellfish, crabs, sea urchins and jellyfish.

Those who come across distressed marine animals like turtles, dolphins or dugongs may call the fisheries’ monitoring centre’s 24-hour hotline at 03-8888 5019.

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