Resort rehabilitates, releases turtle

KOTA KINABALU: Gaya Island Resort has released the young turtle it rescued in April this year.

The Green Sea Turtle was discovered malnourished and covered in barnacles, and was nursed back to health by the resort’s Marine Centre. She was returned to sea after being verified fit and healthy, after three months in their care. She is the fourth turtle to be taken in by the resort.

Ninja, as she was later to be named, was first discovered by Gaya Island Resort Marine Centre on April 4, after the resort’s Turtle Hotline received a call from Dr Nathan Sen, Assistant Director of Sabah Wildlife Department. He and his team had discovered a farmer who had a turtle in his possession. In Sabah, turtles are a protected species carrying a RM50,000 fine and five years’ imprisonment for capturing them.

Dr. Sen rescued her and transferred her to Gaya Island Resort Marine Centre. Here, emaciated and suffering from septicemia, Ninja was put under the care of Marine Biologist Scott Mayback. She was kept under constant surveillance and given various medications including antibiotics and topical medication to remove barnacles. Within three months, her weight improved from 7.7kg to

8.6kg and her appetite and colour returned.

On June 27, after being deemed fit and able to survive back in the sea by Marine Research Foundation’s Dr Nick Pilcher, Ninja was released by Gaya Island Marine Centre.

The event started with Dr Sen sharing a few words on how the young turtle came into their care, and with Mr. Mayback explaining the work gone into rescuing and rehabilitating Ninja.

“Saving a single turtle requires team effort,” said Mayback. “For rescuing and

rehabilitating Ninja, I need to thank Dr. Sen, Sabah Wildlife Rescue Unit’s Dr Diana Ramirez who helped with the medical treatments, and Dr Pilcher, without whom the turtle rescue centre would not have been founded. I hope that we can continue to not only help turtles and other sea life in need of care, but also motivate and inspire the public so they can also support and value our rich marine eco-system.”

Present at Ninja’s release were various wildlife bodies and supporting members. These included Sabah Wildlife Rescue Unit, WWF Malaysia and Reef Check. Also in attendance were hotel guests from numerous countries including Australia, China and the United Kingdom, and over 30 primary school students from Gaya Island’s Kampung Gaya School, invited as part of the resort’s initiative to educate and raise awareness regarding marine conservation and the importance of preserving the rich ecology of Borneo. The event ended with Dr Sen and Mayback carrying the turtle into the waters of Gaya Island Resort’s private Tavajun Bay, where they released her into her natural habitat. Ninja is currently seven to 10 years old, and as Green Sea Turtles generally live up to approximately 80 years of age, is hoped to live a long, healthy life thanks to the rescue and rehabilitation team.

Gaya Island Resort houses Malaysia’s first turtle rehabilitation centre, which comes complete with a turtle rescue hotline. The public is encouraged to call the Turtle Rescue Hotline at +60 13 899 9509 should they find a sick, injured or illegally kept turtle in Sabah.

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