'Such a wonderful experience,' says man who helped rescue turtle hatchlings at East Coast Park

The hatchlings were put into plastic or paper bags that were handed over to someone who walked to the beach to release them. PHOTOS: BRANDON GOH

SINGAPORE - The search and rescue was not easy but cycling enthusiast Brendan Goh managed to get six turtle hatchlings out of harm's way last Thursday (Dec 16).

He and his friend were riding along East Coast Park that night and approaching the National Service Resort and Country Club when they saw a crowd of about 30 people.

Speaking to The Straits Times on Sunday (Dec 19), the 39-year-old, who owns a business in the horticulture industry, said: "My friend and I were wondering why there was suddenly such a big crowd... It was kind of in the middle of nowhere."

As they got closer, they noted a few people signalling to cyclists to slow down because some people were trying to pick up the hatchlings.

"They were getting people to slow down but it was a bit tough, because it was quite dark," said Mr Goh.

He got off his bicycle and parked it across the path so that it acted as a barricade against oncoming cyclists.

The hatchlings were "quite small and it was quite hard to see them in the dark. There were leaves (blown onto) the PCN and they were smaller than the leaves, about a quarter of a palm size", he recalled. PCN refers to park connector network.

Mr Goh said the hatchlings were put into plastic or paper bags that were handed over to someone who walked to the beach to release them.

In total, he helped to pick up six hatchlings. Mr Goh said those who arrived earlier said they collected about 50 to 100.

Mr Goh added: "From what I learnt from my friend who does some work in marine biology, she told me that these were the critically endangered hawksbill turtles."

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Hawksbill turtles, which are native to Singapore, lay eggs on sandy beaches. Their nests have been spotted in places such as East Coast Park and Sentosa.

According to the National Parks Board (NParks), the female can lay up to 200 eggs at a time and they usually hatch after two months.

Between January 2017 and October 2021, there were 210 hawksbill turtle sightings in Singapore, based on data from NParks.

Recalling the encounter, Mr Goh said it was amazing.

"It was the first time that I'd experienced something like that first-hand. Previously, I used to see it in documentaries on National Geographic or Discovery channel.

"But now I have (had) the chance to see and touch them; it's a different feeling, I was just overwhelmed by the experience."

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