KOTA KINABALU – A sub-adult green turtle with single fore flipper has been successfully released back into the sea recently, after undergoing rehabilitation treatment for three months.
The endangered turtle, nicknamed Champ, is the third rescued turtle to be fitted with a satellite prior to being released on July 29.
The satellite tagging was done under the collaboration between Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), Marine Research Foundation, and Scuba Junkie.
Champ was rescued on May 7 near Pom Pom Island Resort off Semporna and was placed at the Scuba Junkie’s Mabul Turtle Rehabilitation Centre.
SWD’s Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) acting manager Dr Diana Ramirez said the animal was found stuck in a fishing line, which has entangled its left flipper.
“The entangled line had caused complete loss of the flipper. We sent a team to the island to perform emergency amputation of the protruding bone and provide supportive treatment before it gets further infected.
“Our veterinarians also trained the staff on the island to do daily cleaning of the wound following the surgery,” she said, adding that the department supervised its progress.
At the rehabilitation centre, Ramirez said Champ was placed in a bigger tank to observe his ability to adapt in deeper waters and strong current.
After 12 weeks of rehabilitation treatment, veterinarians decided it was ready for release despite having only a single front flipper.
“We were gradually testing Champ’s movement and swimming skills until we saw it was completely comfortable in deeper waters. So, after observations and discussion with experts, we believe Champ will survive.
“Champ’s situation is the first amputation case and it is not common. However, this is not the first time we have issues with (fishing) nets,” stressed Ramirez.
Human fishing gear, she said represents the single greatest threat to sea turtle worldwide.
A marine biologist at the Mabul Turtle Rehabilitation Centre Cat Cassidy added turtles are particularly affected as they need to surface for breathing.
“Entanglement can prevent them from doing so and this will eventually lead to drowning,” she said.
In May, two green turtles were rescued in a weak state and were tended by the WRU personnel. The turtles were put under close observation at the rehabilitation centre before they were tagged and released on June 24. -NST