The first successfully rescued mature female hawksbill sea turtle in Taiwan has migrated to Indonesia, 94 days after it was released in Yilan County, marking the nation’s longest tracking period for the endangered turtle species.
The turtle was found stranded at a beach in Yilan in June last year with injuries that a National Taiwan Ocean University conservation team suspect were caused by fishing nets, Forestry Bureau Conservation division director Kuan Li-hao said.
The turtle, at 75.1cm long and weighing 63.5kg, is estimated to be about 40 years old and is the largest hawksbill sea turtle ever found in Taiwan.
The turtle was nicknamed “A-fei” (meaning fly) because the team was buying flying fish when the turtle was found, Kuan said.
A-fei was in a poor condition and had 46 barnacles on its shell, significantly affecting the turtle’s swimming ability, Kuan said.
The National Taiwan University Veterinary Hospital diagnosed A-fei with lung inflammation, but the condition was not severe, and it was taken to a sea turtle shelter in New Taipei City for treatment.
A-fei vomited a large number of flying fish eggs, algae and plastic while in the shelter. The turtle was rehospitalized in July last year, suffering from pneumonia, the bureau said.
After three weeks of treatment, the turtle was discharged and returned to a shelter in August last year, regaining its health 130 days later. The turtle was observed having a daily intake of fresh squid.
A-fei was tagged with a satellite tracker and released in Yilan on Nov. 13 last year. After 94 days, the turtle in February passed the equator to Belitung Island on the Karimata Strait, Indonesia, 5,467km from where it was released.
“According to the tracking data, A-fei is still on Belitung Island, so it is believed that that is where it was hatched because sea turtles usually return to their nesting site to lay their own eggs, or move around when they are not breeding,” Kuan said.
“It was the first time Taiwan tracked a hawksbill turtle. A-fei was a strong female in her prime and likely to spawn, so tracking her gives researchers an understanding of turtle habitats and distribution. Researchers and conservationists are more familiar with green sea turtles than hawksbill turtles, so the tracking is of great importance to us,” he said. (TaipeiTimes)