SINGAPORE - Hawksbill turtles are making a comeback on the Republic's urban beaches, a sign that things are looking up for these critically endangered reptiles.
Eighteen sightings of the hawksbill sea turtle native to Singapore were recorded here last year, almost half the total number of sightings for the preceding five-year period.
Between 2011 and 2016, 43 sightings of hawksbill turtles were recorded in Singapore's shores, the National Parks Board (NParks) said on Friday (Jan 26).
"The increased number of recorded sightings and hatchlings in 2017 is not only an encouraging sign for the species... but also reflects heightened public awareness as many sightings were reported by members of the public," said Dr Karenne Tun, director of the coastal and marine branch at NParks' National Biodiversity Centre.
There were also over 500 successful hatchlings from seven separate nests last year, in places such as Singapore's offshore Southern Islands and on East Coast Park on the mainland.
They join another 106 baby turtles that on Jan 19 nosed their way out of shells and into the waters at Sentosa's Tanjong Beach, in an encouraging start to 2018, which is also the International Year of the Reef that is being celebrated by countries around the world, including Singapore.
NParks said on Friday that it had, together with the Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), released a rescued and rehabilitated hawksbill sea turtle hatchling into the waters of Sisters' Islands Marine Park earlier this week.
NParks and WRS representatives both sit on the Marine Turtle Working Group, an expert panel that helps to assess and document turtle arrivals and hatchling success on our beaches, and shape marine turtle conservation and management plans.
The rescued hatchling was from a batch of eggs that NParks found on one of the Southern Islands in September last year. The hatchling was premature, with its yolk sac still visible when it was found.
NParks handed over the turtle, which was barely alive and severely dehydrated, to WRS. It was treated immediately, mainly with fluids. By morning, the hatchling had completely emerged from its egg, said NParks and WRS.
After four months of intensive care, the hatchling grew from its initial weight of 10g to 500g, and was released earlier this week.
Dr Sonja Luz, WRS director for conservation, research and veterinary services, said she was initially cautious about the turtle's survival chances.
"As he grew in strength, the challenge was in making sure he received proper nutrition and would grow appropriately, especially after the first week... Luckily, the little guy was a curious one, and would try any food readily."
The hatchling has been microchipped so that it can be identified if it returns to Singapore's shores in the future, said NParks.
"The knowledge gained from the rescue and rehabilitation of this hatchling will contribute to our understanding of the critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle and help to guide conservation efforts," it added.