May 22, 2010

Rare Turtles To Be Released In Singapore

Japan has handed 13 endangered sea turtles, born and raised in captivity, over to a Singapore aquarium to prepare them for release into a natural habitat later this year, scientists said on Friday.

The highly endangered Hawksbill turtles were brought to Singapore by their Japanese caretakers Tomomi Saito and Yoshihiko Kanou from the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium.

The 13 turtles are the offspring of hawksbill turtles donated by Underwater World Singapore to the Nagoya aquarium in 1997 and 2002. The turtles -- five one-year-olds and eight three-year-olds -- were turned over on Thursday to Underwater World Singapore, which is collaborating with the Nagoya aquarium to release the reptiles.

The Singapore aquarium will monitor the turtles and conduct frequent checks to determine their fitness for the September-scheduled release.

"With the success of their breeding... we would want to have some of these captive-bred turtles return to the wild," Anthony Chang, curator of the Underwater World Singapore, told the AFP news agency.

Releasing older turtles that were bred in captivity will improve their chances of survival in the wild, Chang said. "We know that on the beaches, when turtle eggs hatch, people will poach them," he told AFP.

"The turtles may be collected by people and they may be eaten up. The survivability of the small babies is very, very low."

Turtle soup is a delicacy in Asia and the turtle shells are turned into powder and used as an ingredient for a jelly desert.

Before being released, the turtles will be outfitted with satellite devices so their movements in the wild can be tracked and monitored, allowing scientists to learn about their migratory behavior and survivability.

Their findings will be reported at an international convention on biological diversity in Nagoya in October.


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