Turtles leave human 'parents' to return to the wild

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 July, 2007, 12:00am

Conservation officers yesterday completed the release of 61 juvenile green turtles into the sea at Tai Long Wan, hoping they will one day return to nest.

Despite their small size, officers believed the turtles could swim safely to deeper water, where they could find shelter and food in seaweed.

Their deep-diving skills would also protect them from predators, the officers said.

The release, which had taken about a week, finished at noon yesterday. The turtles were microchipped for future identification and blood samples were taken for scientific research.

Cheung Ka-shing, of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, said yesterday the time and weather was right for the release. He hoped the turtles would remember the smell of their nesting place and come back to lay eggs when they are mature.

'We arranged the release for July because apart from warmer water temperatures, the current off Tai Long Wan is moving towards open waters and will help push the turtles to their destinations,' he said.

The turtles were artificially hatched and incubated in December from eggs laid in September on Tai Long Wan beach in Sai Kung. It was the first turtle nest found at the beach in 30 years.

Agricultural department officials decided to take the eggs, fearing the chances of them hatching would be low if they were left unattended.

The hatched juvenile turtles were then cared for by Ocean Park, the Wetland Park and the headquarters of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

They all gained weight from an average of 25 grams to 800 grams and their body lengths had tripled to 16cm in the seven months before they were released.