106 hawksbill turtles hatch on Sentosa beach

Hawksbill turtle hatchlings at Sentosa's Tanjong Beach yesterday. Officials had taken measures to keep the eggs of this critically endangered species safe till they hatched.
Hawksbill turtle hatchlings at Sentosa's Tanjong Beach yesterday. Officials had taken measures to keep the eggs of this critically endangered species safe till they hatched.PHOTO: SENTOSA DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION

This is the third batch to be born in Singapore since last August

What are tiny, green, covered in sand and Singapore's latest celebration of wildlife?

Over 100 hawksbill turtles - which emerged out of eggs buried at a Sentosa beach yesterday morning, adding to the population of these critically endangered reptiles.

The 106 hatchlings made their way into the waters at Sentosa's Tanjong Beach, marking the third time hawksbill turtles have hatched in Singapore since August.

Officers from the National Parks Board (NParks) took measurements and checked the baby turtles before they were released into the sea, said Sentosa Development Corporation, which manages the island.

The turtle nest was first spotted by a beachgoer on Nov 10 last year. There have been two other sightings in Sentosa, in 2010 and 1996.

A barrier was built around the nest to keep the eggs safe from natural predators such as monitor lizards and crabs, and reduce potential disturbance during the incubation period, the Sentosa spokesman told The Straits Times.

"As the hawksbill turtle is a critically endangered species, Sentosa Development Corporation... performed daily checks on the nest after the discovery," he said.

Hawksbill turtles grow to about 1.1m in terms of shell length, and weigh about 68kg. Their name comes from their tapering heads that end in a sharp point, which resemble beaks.

This is the third batch of turtle hatchlings to emerge from Singapore's beaches since last August. Two other clutches were found in East Coast Park, and these hatched in August and November last year.

Said turtle ecologist Rushan Abdul Rahman, 28: "It is not unusual to find turtles nesting on sandy beaches in the tropics, although some people may be surprised to know that this phenomenon takes place in urban Singapore too."

But he added that a lot about turtle nesting habits in Singapore remain unknown, such as whether hawksbill turtles return to the same location every time they nest, and how often they make nesting migrations.

Mr Rushan pointed out that other studies have shown that some loggerhead turtle populations are happy to nest within a 100km range, whereas green turtles on Ascension Island, off Brazil's coast, are much fussier about where they do so.

A Marine Turtle Working Group - comprising staff from NParks, academics from institutions such as the National University of Singapore, and interest groups and individuals - was re-established in 2016 to learn more about Singapore's native turtles.

If a turtle is spotted, people should keep their distance and speak softly, say experts. Touching the creature may scare or provoke it. People should also not handle the eggs as this might damage them.

Members of the public can call the Sentosa hotline at 1800-Sentosa (736-8672) if they spot a turtle nest on the resort island, and NParks on 1800-471-7300 if turtles are spotted in other parts of Singapore.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2018, with the headline '106 hawksbill turtles hatch on Sentosa beach'. Print Edition | Subscribe