Two-headed turtle dies days after hatching

A two-headed baby turtle was found on Monday on Mabul island, off the Malaysian part of Borneo, in a nest alongside more than 90 other recently hatched green turtles. It died late on Wednesday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
A two-headed baby turtle was found on Monday on Mabul island, off the Malaysian part of Borneo, in a nest alongside more than 90 other recently hatched green turtles. It died late on Wednesday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

KUALA LUMPUR • The birth of a two-headed baby turtle in Malaysia captivated conservationists, but it survived only a few days after being discovered.

The turtle was found on Monday on Mabul island, off the Malaysian part of Borneo, in a nest alongside more than 90 other recently hatched green turtles.

Dr David McCann, marine biologist and conservation manager for SJ SEAS - which oversees the nesting site - said the creature was "utterly fascinating".

"The right head seemed to control the front right flipper, and the left head the front left flipper. Yet they were capable of coordinating their movements in order to walk and swim," he said in a statement.

SJ SEAS chairman Mohamad Khairuddin Riman said: "We have released around 13,000 hatchlings from the hatchery and have never seen anything like this before."

But the turtle died late on Wednesday, said Dr Sen Nathan, a vet from Sabah Wildlife Department. He said the cause of death was not yet known but added that the turtle would have had little chance of surviving long in the wild.

"It would have been poached by an eagle because it could not swim well," he said.

While rare, it was not the first time a two-headed baby turtle has been found. Dr Nathan said one was discovered in 2014, on an island off Malaysia's east coast, which survived for three months.

Green turtles are among the largest sea turtles, and are mainly found in tropical and subtropical waters. Classified as endangered, they are threatened by habitat loss as well as by poachers who hunt them for their meat and eggs.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2019, with the headline Two-headed turtle dies days after hatching. Subscribe