SINGAPORE - Two sea turtles that were rescued and put under the care of the S.E.A Aquarium have been released into the wild after more than two years of rehabilitation.
The turtles were released into the waters around Singapore on Tuesday morning (June 19), in hopes that they will breed and increase their population in the wild, the aquarium said in a statement.
The release was done with support and assistance from the National Parks Board, the aquarium added.
Hawke the hawksbill turtle - a critically endangered species- was released in the waters of Sisters' Islands Marine Park. Meanwhile, Louie of the endangered green sea turtle species was returned to the waters of Pulau Semakau.
Both turtles were tagged and microchipped so they can be identified if they return to Singapore's shores in the future, the S.E.A Aquarium said.
During their two years at the aquarium, the turtles were under the care of curatorial and animal health teams.
Aquarist Kenneth Kwang said it was an emotional moment for the team to see both turtles return to the ocean.
"Our team has spent more than two exciting years caring for them like our babies and it is an aquarist's dream to see our animals grow healthy after rehabilitation and return to the wild so they can contribute to the overall marine ecosystem," he said in the statement.
Upon release, both turtles started swimming immediately in the water and disappeared from sight within seconds, according to the aquarium.
"Following the release, Louie was later spotted swimming near the same boat with its head out of the water, as though it was bidding farewell to its caretakers," it added.
Prior to their release, both turtles underwent a veterinary examination, including a blood test, weight and length measurement, to ensure they were healthy.
To prepare them for the wild, both turtles were moved gradually from back-of-house areas to larger habitats at the S.E.A Aquarium, to encourage exploration and interaction with other marine life.
Louie the green sea turtle was one week old and weighed 20g when it came under the care of the aquarium in 2015, after it was found in a drain by a member of the public. It is now 21.5kg and has grown to 61cm.
As for Hawke, the hawksbill turtle was believed to be kept illegally as a pet, and weighed 800g when it first arrived at the aquarium. The male turtle now weighs 23kg and measures 59cm, said the S.E.A Aquarium.
Hawke also has a shell deformity, which is likely due to poor nutrition and care when he was young, said the aquarium.
Both Louie and Hawke are native to Singapore, and were the first sea turtles to join the aquarium's marine life collection.
There are seven species of sea turtles: green, hawksbill, Kemp's ridley, olive ridley, leatherback, loggerhead and flatback. Of these seven, six are considered threatened according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.