Green turtle in Malaysia survives plastic waste ordeal
GEORGE TOWN - If you think the dangers of plastic waste at sea are exaggerated, read this story about a small, disabled green turtle named Sidewinder.
In 2015, fishermen found the three-year-old turtle injured at sea, with its carapace struck by a boat propeller at the rear.
They brought it to the Penang Turtle Sanctuary in Pantai Kerachut and sanctuary rangers nursed it back to health.
Then suddenly, said state fisheries director Noraisyah Abu Bakar, Sidewinder stopped eating.
Eventually, they pulled out two plastic bags and 10 straws from its anus, as Sidewinder had thought these were food and was experiencing constipation.
"Sidewinder immediately began defecating and eating again. We must stop plastic waste ending up at sea all together.
"Its danger to turtles is very real and Sidewinder is the living proof, " said Noraisyah.
The sad part about Sidewinder is that when the boat propeller struck its carapace, it left a permanent slash that acts like a fixed rudder, resulting in Sidewinder always swimming in circles now.
Twice, the rangers tried to release it back into the wild but to no avail.
The first time, a fisherman rescued it when it was seen struggling on the surface.
On the second time, a tourist found the hungry and exhausted turtle at the meromictic lake of Pantai Kerachut.
Sidewinder is now a permanent resident of the sanctuary.
The public can visit Sidewinder at the sanctuary, which is open daily from 10am to 4pm.
Noraisyah revealed Sidewinder's story while visiting another turtle at the Tunku Abdul Rahman Aquarium in Batu Maung yesterday.
This one is the 60kg female loggerhead turtle that fishermen rescued near Pulau Kendi on Sept 7 after it got snared in an abandoned trawler's net.
The three fishermen - Ang Ta Lin, 46, Lee Boon Hin, 40, and Chan Zhi Sheng, 18 - were taken to the aquarium by Noraisyah to visit the turtle.
"She ate 15 kembong fish for breakfast before we arrived. She's doing well now and once we are sure she is in good health, we will release her, so that she can continue on her journey, " said Noraisyah.
Ang, the team's skipper, glowed with pride to see the turtle swimming actively in the quarantine tank and even responding curiously when people peered down at it.
"She was so exhausted when we brought her onto our boat that she didn't move at all. We were sure she was going to die.
"We feel so happy we rescued her, " he said.
Also present was environmental activist Khoo Salma Nasution and Teluk Kumbar Fishermen's Association chairman Roslizan Ramli.
Khoo Salma had shared photos and videos of the rescue on social media. They were viewed over 30,000 times and triggered a worldwide discussion among herpetologists (reptile experts).
"Loggerheads are not native to Malaysia and this one must have travelled thousands of kilometres.
"We know that Pulau Kendi is a feeding ground for turtles and fishermen have told us that they even spotted massive leatherback turtles there.
"We want the government to make sure the environment around Pulau Kendi is always protected, " she said, urging the government to reconsider reclamation plans off the south of Penang island if it threatens Pulau Kendi.
Herpetologist Dr Sarahaizad Mohd Salleh, who was present, said she believed this loggerhead turtle came from either Japan or Australia, where they are commonly found.
Source: Asia One (2019)