32 Hawksbill turtle hatchlings guided into sea at East Coast Park

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The tiny turtles were taken to a better location and released into the sea on Aug 16. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/NPARKS

SINGAPORE - A couple getting ready to leave East Coast Park on Wednesday (Aug 16) evening were surprised to see small moving creatures at their feet, which they later discovered were baby turtles.

A 29-year-old salesman, who gave his name only as Mr Chia, told The Straits Times on Thursday that he was at Bedok Jetty with his wife when they saw a tiny creature on the ground around 10.30pm.

"After a closer look, we realised it's a baby sea turtle," he said. "To our surprise and astonishment - because it's the first time we've spotted this sort of thing at East Coast Park - we actually found more and more of them. We figured they were a bit lost, because they kept circling."

Mr Chia said there were some joggers and cyclists there so he and his wife stood there to prevent them from getting run over.

They also called the National Parks Board's hotline, and an officer arrived about half an hour after.

About 10 people had gathered by then. Together with NParks staff, the group transported the 32 Hawksbill turtle hatchlings to a more suitable location, where they were released at about 1am.

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"We are encouraged by the community's efforts in helping these 32 young hatchlings start on their life journey," said NParks in a Facebook post on Thursday night.

Dr Lena Chan, group director at the National Biodiversity Centre, told The Straits Times that the group consulted the Marine Turtle Working Group in releasing the hatchlings.

"We would also like to take this opportunity to remind members of the public to contact the NParks helpline (1800-471-7300), and to keep their distance and speak softly when a turtle is sighted," she said. "Touching the turtle may scare or provoke it. Similarly, one should not handle the eggs as that might damage them."

Hawksbill turtles, which are sea turtles with mottled shells, have been regularly sighted along the Singapore Strait, according to NParks' website.

They are found in the tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, and females have been spotted coming ashore at East Coast Park to lay eggs.

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Female turtles typically do this at night, laying up to 200 eggs at a time. The eggs hatch after about two months, and the hatchlings make their way instinctively to the sea.

NParks on its website gives the following guidelines when encountering a turtle:

- Call NParks at 1800-4717-300.

- Keep your distance from the turtle and the eggs. Touching the turtle may scare or provoke it. Handling the eggs may damage them, or introduce bacteria into the nest.

- Talk softly and stay out of sight. Do not shine lights at the turtle or use flash photography. Light and noise may scare the turtle, and cause it to leave without laying any eggs.

- Keep clear of tracks left by the turtle. Researchers use the tracks to identify the species of the turtle and to locate the nest.

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