Sixty endangered green sea turtles artificially hatched after their eggs were found on a Sai Kung beach last year will probably be freed next month. But while freeing wild creatures symbolises good fortune in Chinese tradition, an agriculture official insists the timing of the release has nothing to do with the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the handover. Cheung Ka-shing, wetland and fauna conservation officer with the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, said it was prompted by water conditions. 'Water currents will be strong from July,' Mr Cheung said. 'It is a golden chance for the turtles to swim with the stream.' The turtles, hatched from eggs laid on a beach at Tai Long Wan in September, will be freed in batches from different positions on the beach. Releasing them all at once could attract predators. Mr Cheung could not give a firm date for the release. 'It all depends on the weather, water flow and health of the turtles. We have to make sure they are physically healthy before freeing them. If the situation is not suitable, they may not be freed in July,' Mr Cheung said. One thing is certain, though: they will not be released on July 1, the anniversary of the handover, when the city will be full of visitors and the waters will be busy. He said the turtles had a better chance of survival than if they had been born in the wild and had made their way to the sea as soon as they had hatched. That would have made them easy targets for birds and other predators. None of the turtles would be kept at Ocean Park or the Wetland Park, where they have been housed since they hatched in November, because neither has facilities to handle mature turtles that can grow to 1.2 metres and weigh up to 230kg. 'It is meaningless to leave all the turtles in the aquarium unless they are sick or hurt. I would rather they come back again and lay eggs so their species can be sustained,' Mr Cheung said. He said the hatchlings were in good condition, but a little overweight compared to the wild turtles. To help them adapt to the wild, they have been taught to catch fish on their own. The survival rate during hatching was more than 80 per cent, compared to 67 per cent in the wild. But Mr Cheung said natural incubation was still preferable to the artificial method. To give them the best chance possible, a patrol team from the conservation department will clear the beach of any rubbish or other artificial obstacles and keep intruders away. After freeing the 60 turtles, the crew will be unable to trace them as they are too small to have satellite transmitters installed. A group of campers saw the eggs being laid in September last year. The eggs were recovered about two weeks later.