Juvenile hawksbill fitted with a satellite tag

Sea turtles produce thousands of eggs in their lifetime hatching into thousands of new recruits in the form of hatchings returning to the sea. However, the survival of these hatchings are very low where estimates of one in a thousand would survive to maturity. A common response to this is to raise these hatchings to a bigger size where they could survive the perils in the sea much better before release, generally termed as “head-starting”. However, there are concerns that head-started turtles might not survive too as they are used to being fed while in captivity and not able to hunt for food when released into the wild. Their imprinting mechanisms might also be disrupted causing them to lose their orientation. There is also the question of whether head-started turtles would circumvent their pelagic phase as hatchings and settle into their foraging grounds as juveniles.

This research was conducted collaboratively between Universiti Malaysia Terengganu and Aquaria, KLCC. As this is a pioneer headstart study and the effectiveness is not known yet, only a few hatchlings were raised for this experiment.

Hatchling of green and hawksbill turtles were successfully raised at Aquaria, KLCC. In 2008, six of the two-year old green turtles were released back to Redang Island under the program “Turtle Can Fly”. Four of the four-year old sea turtles (1 green and 3 hawkbill turtles) were released back to the sea from their natal beach in August 2010. Out of these, two of the juvenile hawksbill turtles were deployed with satellite transmitter (Grants from the Body Shop Foundation and UMT’s Turtle Trust Fund).

Detail results of the study can be found at: Click here