Endangered sea turtles released off Singapore waters

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Thirteen endangered sea turtles born and bred in Japan were released off Singapore waters Tuesday as part of efforts to conserve the species.

The five one-year-olds and eight three-year-olds are the offspring of Hawksbill turtles donated by the Underwater World Singapore aquarium to the Port of Nagoya aquarium in 1997 and 2002.

They were brought to Singapore earlier this year and kept at the Underwater World aquarium before the eventual release into their natural habitat.

"I feel a sense of great relief because the turtles are where they belong,' George Balazs, biologist and leader of marine turtle research at the Hawaii-based Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center.

"Sea turtles in the sea," the scientist said after the last turtle swam into the water.

The three-year-olds were fitted with satellite tracking devices so that scientists can follow their progress.

The turtles were first transported in boxes from nearby Sentosa island and then released on a stretch of beach on Big Sister's Island.

They crawled down the beach to the water's edge and disappeared into the sea as conservationists, scientists, students and the media erupted into cheers and applause.

"This release project has our strong desire that we want to return those Japanese-born turtles to Singaporean sea (which is) the native place of their parents," said Makoto Soichi, director with the Nagoya aquarium.

Underwater World Singapore said cooperation was key to efforts to conserve turtles which are regarded as a delicacy in parts of Asia.

"We hope that our integrated and collaborative efforts will contribute to our better understanding of Hawksbill turtle behaviour and improve turtle conservation efforts," said Peter chew, deputy general manager of the Singapore aquarium.

Turtle soup is a delicacy in parts of Asia and turtle shells are crushed into powder for use in a jelly dessert.

The Hawksbill shell is also used to make products like combs, ornamental hairpins and glasses frames.